Did you know this summer marks 50 years since a human first walked on the moon? Or that 100 years ago, a group of female campaigners and scientists joined together to set up the Women’s Engineering Society?
Besides the many commemorative celebrations and anniversaries taking place this year, there are new exhibitions launching, famous scientists taking to the stage and hundreds of festivals popping up all over the country. Make sure you’re first in the know about what’s going on near you with our list of 10 not-to-miss science events.
Celebrate 50 years since NASA landed on the moon
History was made on 20 July, 1969, when US astronaut Neil Armstrong took one small step for man… and became the first human to walk on the moon. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of celebrations taking place up and down the country this year to commemorate one of the most memorable events in modern times.
Moon Festival takes place in London from 20 to 21 July, with art exhibitions, music performances, pop science lectures, moonlit film screenings and night-time food markets. One Giant Leap is a large-scale outdoor show – location to be revealed – that also takes place over the commemorative weekend. In Cornwall, at Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station – home to the Arthur satellite dish, which enabled TV viewers to watch the transatlantic broadcast of Armstrong’s first steps – there’s a weekend of science, art, music and culture at Apollo 50. And don’t forget to take a look at what’s coming up at the National Space Centre in Leicester, for space-themed exhibitions and activities all-year round.
Join in British Science Week
British Science Week runs from 8 to 17 March and calls itself the ‘UK’s big science celebration’. This year’s theme is ‘journeys’ and there are events taking place everywhere, with all sorts of activities, citizen science projects and competitions you can get involved in too.
Guinness World Records is running a poster competition with the winner getting the chance to spend a day working at their headquarters. And following in the footsteps (literally) of British Science Week’s two previous virtual races – Run the Solar System and Run to the Deep – there’s a new race for 2019 called Run with the Ancestors. It’s an immersive running experience that anyone can join in using the free app – or if you’re based in London, there are 5k and 10k races taking place on 16 March.
Find a science festival near you
Wherever you live in the UK, it’s more than likely there’s a science festival taking place somewhere near you this year… Hundreds of free events take place up and down the country – here are some highlights from a small sample of those coming up.
The Northern Ireland Science Festival (14 to 24 February) includes the popular Great QR Hunt, rocket launch workshops and talks on topics such as AI and the science of attraction. The ever-popular Cambridge Science Festival takes place the following month (11 to 24 March) – programme launching soon. While in June, the Glasgow Science Festival is back (6 to 16 June) with a programme of events based on the legacy of James Watt’s steam engine development in the city.
Come and say hello to us!
We’ll be at the Big Bang Fair (13 to 16 March), the Edinburgh Science Festival (6 to 21 April) and the Cheltenham Science Festival (4 to 9 June) – so come and say ‘hello’! At the Edinburgh Science Festival, we’ll be running Energy Makers wind turbine workshops for the duration of the festival at the City Art Centre. Or you can join us at the planetarium in the National Museum of Scotland (13 to 21 April) where we’ll be showcasing our nuclear virtual reality film. Experience what it’s like to be the size of an atom and journey where nobody has gone before: into the core of a nuclear reactor!
Visit the new spaces at the Life Science Centre
The Life Science Centre in Newcastle has never been a hands-off museum: visitors are invited to prod, squeeze and engage with exhibits; as well as explore, play, create and experiment across the various zones. Launching in spring this year are two new permanent exhibitions: a Creative Zone where visitors will be encouraged to craft, tinker and create; and a Space Zone.
There are also some exciting exhibitions on now or coming up soon: Alien Invasion runs until 28 April, showcasing original and replica props from some of the best sci-fi film and TV shows; while from 2 February to 31 March, there’s an exhibition on called Museum of the Moon. This is a 7-metre-wide sphere installation from UK artist Luke Jerram, which fuses lunar imagery with moonlight and a mesmerising soundscape from award-winning composer, Dan Jones.
Celebrate female achievements in science
The contributions of forgotten female engineers will be recognised and remembered this year as part of the commemorative events taking place to celebrate the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) centenary. Plus, look out for local activities taking place to mark this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 February), International Women in Engineering Day (23 June) and, of course, International Women’s Day (8 March).
See a scientist live on stage
Professor Brian Cox (OBE), Dara O’Briain and Alice Roberts have become household names thanks to popular TV shows like Wonders of the Universe, Stargazing Live and Origins of Us. But instead of watching re-runs of your favourite series this year, why not get out and see these scientists on stage?
In An Evening with Alice Roberts (running until the end of February) anthropologist Alice Roberts shares insights and behind-the-scenes stories from her career so far.
Professor Brian Cox is touring with a new live show about the origins of the universe called Universal Adventures in Space and Time, featuring special guest Robin Ince.
Dara O’Briain’s Voice of Reason tour (running at various venues nationwide, until the end of May) draws more on his persona as a comedian, rather than theoretical physicist – although he does apparently reference his Stargazing Live performance in classic self-deprecating style. But for true escapism into the natural world, take a look at Blue Planet 2 Live (various venues in March), which showcases footage from the award-winning TV series accompanied by live music from the City of Prague Orchestra.
Investigate the natural world
Expect to hear about new green-fingered projects in 2019, as the Government’s Year of Green Action gets underway to persuade more young people to help improve the natural world. It’s also 70 years of National Parks so find out if any activities are taking place near you, particularly during National Parks Week (6 to 21 April).
If you’re local to Bath or Bristol, take a look at what’s on for the Festival of Nature, which calls itself ‘the UK’s biggest free celebration of the natural world’. Activities are planned for the end of April and beginning of June.
Visit a music festival
If you thought that the UK’s biggest music festivals were all about… well, music, you’d be wrong! Science – whether pop-up experiments, talks from leading scientists or immersive virtual reality experiences – has become as integral to the line-up of the nation’s favourite weekend retreats as the headline acts on the main stages.
Kicking off this summer’s action is Bluedot (18 to 21 July), which celebrates man’s landing on the moon. Expect to see the reappearance of last year’s Star and Planet Fields, and Space Pavilion, as well as more fascinating ‘DotTalks’. Deershed Festival 10 takes place the following week. Here you can see performers like Anna Calvi and comedian James Acaster, while also experiencing VR, science art installations and hands-on workshops inside the science tent.
Other festivals offering a similar mix of music, performance, culture, art and science include Solarsphere, an ‘astronomical and music festival’ (9 to 12 August), and Green Man Festival (15 to 18 August), which features the Einstein’s Garden area for “time travellers, music lovers and aspiring astronauts.”
Be an armchair scientist
This year you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to experience mind-blowing experiments, enjoy an audience with some of today’s leading scientists or hear about the latest scientific theories. This year’s TED conference (15 to 19 April) in Canada is focusing on our search for deeper meaning, so expect to hear from technology pioneers and scientists challenging the way we think. Follow the action live on social media channels. And if you need fresh YouTube inspiration, take a look at Matt Parker (of Standup Maths) and Vi Hart, both of whom bring a new approach to solving popular maths puzzles.
Many of our power stations run events during term time and holidays. To find out what’s on and where your nearest power station is based, take a look at our Visitor Centre page. To find out more about Pretty Curious, our programme to inspire more girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers, take a look at the Pretty Curious hub