Cosmology and astrophysics address some of the most fundamental and universally fascinating questions in the whole of science: Where did the Universe come from? What is it made of? What will its ultimate fate be? The study of the Universe is inspiring, humbling and in short one of the greatest scientific challenges of humankind.

But by its nature the cosmos is also far removed from our everyday experience. This is part of its mystery and fascination, but it can also become a hurdle when trying to engage the public in a genuine, two-way dialogue. The Hands-On Universe is a public engagement programme to create and deliver innovative methods of connecting the public with our cosmic environment, and with cutting-edge research in astrophysics.

The Hands-on Universe endeavours to reinterpret and understand the big questions in cosmology and astrophysics in terms of our everyday experiences, metaphorically, conceptually, artistically and emotionally. What is the Universe made of? How did it begin? How will it end? What is the nature of reality? How does science work? We create immersive, participative experiences by using do-it-yourself activities, cookery and other fun, unexpected ways of engaging with the great mysteries of the cosmos.

The Hands-on Universe is a programme was sponsored by a Public Engagement Fellowship awarded by STFC (The Science and Technology Facilities Council UK), 2013-2017. The programme was long listed for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement Engage Awards 2016.



“We were thrilled to host two g-Astronomy events as part of the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival, marking the project’s debut in Scotland. Roberto is an enthusiastic and engaging host, a delight to work with, and g-Astronomy really captured the imagination of our audiences. Over the course of his weekend at the festival Roberto hosted a cosmic cocktails and canapes evening on Saturday at An Lanntair, and a Sunday evening meal at Uig Sands restaurant on the other side of the island, planning the menus along with the catering teams at both venues and then using the food and drink choices as a launchpad for a fascinating talk about the history of the Universe, spread throughout the evening as our audience enjoyed their food and drink, with lots of food for thought along the way. Both events were sold out and the feedback has all been immensely positive. We look forward to inviting Roberto back to the festival.”
(Andrew Eaton-Lewis, programmer, Hebridean Dark Skies Festival)

“Thank you for your outstanding talk – it was one of the most engaging lectures I’ve seen for this age group and the audience were captivated” (Bhavika Jessani, Outreach Officer, Imperial College London).

“The talk definitely encouraged the girls to want to find out more about the planets and the solar system. They found the talk extremely interesting and it has generated lots of thought provoking questions” (Norland Place School Yr 5 and 6 teacher).

“g-ASTRONOMY is a brilliant idea – what a great way of engaging people in the science of both areas!” (g-ASTRONOMY event attendee).

“This was for me, in a way, life changing” (g-ASTRONOMY workshop for people with visual impairment participant).

Past events

  • Cheltenham Science Festival, May 2016
  • Imperial Festival, London, May 2016
  • Early Year Education Centre, London, May 2016
  • St Mary, Jersey, April 2016
  • Royal Astronomical Society, London, March 2016
  • Daresbury Laboratory, Feb 2016
  • Guadalajara International Book Festival, Mexico, Nov 2015
  • Creative Quarter, South Kensington, Nov 2015
  • Royal Albert Hall, London, Nov 2015
  • Technopop Brixton, June 2015
  • Cheltenham Science Festival 2015
  • Fig2 show, Institute for Contemporary Art, London, May 2015
  • Imperial Festival, May 2015
  • Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 2015
  • Imperial College London, GCSE Astronomy students workshop, March 2015
  • Airware, San Francisco, March 2015
  • Royal Institution, London, Feb 2015
  • Imperial Fringe Festival, Dec 2014
  • Intech Planetarium, Winchester, Jan 2015
  • English Language Council lecture, Nov 2014
  • World Teach In, London, Nov 2014
  • Manchester Science Festival, Oct 2014
  • Technopop, London, Oct 2014
  • Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, Sept 2014
  • Town Hall Seattle, Sept 2014
  • Powell’s bookstore, Portland OR, Oct 2014
  • The Observatory Astronomy Festival, Herstmonceaux, Sept 2014
  • Science for Fiction, Imperial, Aug 2014
  • Imperial Physics Dept open day, June 2014
  • I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! June 2014 (winner)
  • Imperial Festival, May 2015
  • Norland Place school, London, May 2014
  • TEDx Hackney, Apr 2014
  • Oxford University Astronomy Weekend, Apr 2014
  • Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, London, March 2014
  • St. Joseph’s Primary School, Holborn, March 2014
  • The Purple Kitchen, March 2014
  • Norland Place school, London, Feb 2014
  • Alleyn School, London, Jan 2014
  • Wimbledon High School, Dec 2013
  • The London Oratory School, Dec 2013
  • Royal Institution 14-10 Club, Dec 2013