The Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL / Birkbeck



Scientists from the Centre for Planetary Sciences work on a wide variety of public engagement activities across the UK, providing talks to astronomical societies, schools, science festivals, science centres, music festivals, and other venues. CPS researchers contribute projects to the award-winning Orbyts 'research in schools' programme. We also run a series of free public engagement talks, 'Adventures in Planetary Science'.


Mars vs Europa! Which is the best place to search for life beyond Earth?


The ‘Mars vs Europa!' debate was a free public engagement event held live in person at UCL and online, on Thursday 9th March 2023, as part of ESERO-UK and STEM Learning National Mars Week 2023.

Planet of the week, Mars, is pitched against Guest Planet Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, in a lively debate on one of the hot topics in astrobiology and planetary science: 'Where is the best place to search for life beyond Earth?'

Our experts presented their cases for Team Mars or Team Europa and the audience were able to put their questions to the panels, before casting their vote. Watch to find out who won on the night!

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/IIagidAG
      Adventures in Planetary Science image banner on ombre blue background with line illustration of solar system planetsplanets

      Adventures in Planetary Science

      'Adventures in Planetary Science' is series of free public enagagement events with talks by experts from the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck and associated guests on exciting planetary topics, followed by Q&A with the speakers.

      Recordings of our events so far.

      Tiles of images of groups of secondary school pupils giving their Orbyts research presentations


      Orbyts is a multi-award-winning movement that partners scientists with schools to empower school students to undertake world-leading research. Through the Orbyts programme, CPS researchers are partnered with schools to provide pupils with relatable science role models while empowering them to conduct their own original planetary science research projects. Orbyts aims to address diversity issues in science and to support short-supply science teachers who have extensive time pressures.  Find out how you can get involved!

      Cartoon illustration of the Rosalind Franklin rover on an orange-red swirly Mars surface next to the words Eyes on Mars, where the O of On is a cartoon of Mars with an eye on it

      Eyes on Mars

      Eyes on Mars is a public engagement project deisgned to spread awareness of the UK’s involvement in Mars exploration and to inspire school students to pursue a STEM career by providing educational resources. The project was created, and is run, by Catherine Regan and Priya Patel, PhD students at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory, who both have research interests in Mars. Eyes on Mars is supported by funding from the Royal Astronomical Society and UKRI’s Science and Technology Facility Council.

      Karen Devoil explains the robotic exploration of Mars using images on a television screen to a group of school children at UCL's Your Universe Festival 2020

      Your Universe

      Your Universe is an annual festival of astronomy and particle physics at UCL. It is usually held in March and is open and free of charge to all who are interested. The festival has public lectures, demonstrations and presentations, including meeting scientists to talk about their research, trying out telescopes to observe the Sun, Moon and planets (weather permitting).



      Professor Geraint Jones (MSSL) was funded as an STFC Public Engagement Fellow to produce cartoons explaining concepts in space and astronomy. In space, no-one can hear you scribble... Visit astrojots.com to download the free strips!  

      Thinking Space podcast logo with cartoon thought bubble containing starry background

      MSSL Podcast: Thinking Space

      The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) podcast, Thinking Space, reports on the exciting engineering and research work carried out at MSSL, including work by CPS planetary scientists based there. Available on iTunesTuneInPocketCasts, and Stitcher, and they have a dedicated page on Soundcloud

      Our experts

      Scientists and engineers in the Centre for Planetary Sciences are involved with a range of public events, including primary & secondary school visits, exhibitions, and public talks on a wide variety of planetary science topics that are accessible to a range of audiences. Some of our experts are listed below with their specialist subjects.

      • Professor Andrew Coates (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, MSSL): exploring the Solar System, weather in space, the Cassini mission, exploring Mars, ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover, PanCam [Twitter].
      • Professor Ian Crawford (Birkbeck): planetary science and space exploration, especially lunar exploration, astrobiology (the search for life in the universe), planetary and space governance
      • Professor Geraint Jones (UCL MSSL): planetary magnetospheres; interactions with rings and moons, comet- and dust-solar wind interactions, Cassini-Huygens and Rosetta space missions, ESA Comet Interceptor mission, Astrojots [Twitter].
      • Dr Louisa Preston (UCL MSSL): planetary science and space exploration, geology, astrobiology, extremophiles, planetary analogues, Mars exploration, ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover
      • Catherine Regan (UCL MSSL): atmospheric science, environmental science, geography, geology, geophysics, physics, exploring the Solar System,  exploring Mars, Eyes on Mars project [Twitter]
      • Professor Giovanna Tinetti (UCL Physics and Astronomy): exoplanets, atmospheric and planetary science, space missions, ARIEL space mission, Twinkle space mission


      An Evening with the Planets: Pluto and Charon


      'Pluto and Charon - A Planetary Waltz' was a collaboration between composers Catherine Kontz and Minna Orvokki Nygren. The work was commissioned by the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck and performed by pianists Valentina Pravodelov and Kerry Yong at our annual outreach event 'An Evening with the Planets' in 2015.

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      Snapshots from Space History

      Illustration of satellite in orbit, with planets, around a star
      Online exhibition of historic space photos from the UCL MAPS faculty's planetary science archives. See the photos