The Practice of Astronomy: exploring ways of working in astronomy and geophysics through engaging with artefacts

Topic: Computing

Session Title: The Practice of Astronomy: exploring ways of working in astronomy and geophysics through engaging with artefacts


This session offers an alternative means to engage with the practice of astronomy across its entire remit, from studies of the early moments of the universe, to investigations of our own planet and its host star. We offer an alternative session format to focus on our methods and ways of working in astronomy.

Focussing on a series of artefacts that resonate with their research, groups of researchers will be available to analyse their methods through encounter and conversation – sharing anecdotes and experiences from collaborations, missions, observing campaigns and other events. Attendees will be encouraged to interact informally with the artefacts, and the researchers associated with them, prompting new discussions about methodologies and approaches to research. We aim here to inspire each other to interact outside of our usual conference patterns and challenge our perspectives on how we practice astronomy by focussing solely on methods rather than results.

The practice of astronomy can involve telescopes, spacecraft, vast numerical experiments, artificial intelligence, high-energy particle detectors and a wide array of cutting-edge technology. Many of us also use paper and pencil, whiteboards, blackboards or electronic tools to think and communicate. The resulting data are often visualised but can be represented in a host of different ways that appeal to our other senses. Astronomy is practiced by people, sometimes individually, but most often in groups that frequently transcend national borders and other political constraints. We encourage contributors to explore any of these themes.

Contributors to this session are requested to bring to the meeting a research-related artefact that illustrates or resonates with their practice of astronomy. Presenting groups are encouraged to involve their wider research teams in the session, including participants who might not ordinarily present at the National Astronomy Meeting (e.g. expert technicians and students).


  • Prof Clare Watt (Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering, Northumbria University),
  • Prof Fiona Crisp (Department of Arts, Northumbria University),
  • Laura Harrington (Department of Arts, Northumbria University),
  • Monika Brandic Lipinska (School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University)


Session 1: Monday 15th July, 15:00 – 17:00