Getting closer to the universe with Herstmonceux Observatory Science Centre

The Observatory Science Centre's mobile planetarium
The Observatory Science Centre's mobile planetarium

The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux has invested in a new mobile planetarium to enhance its outreach programme.

The new inflatable dome - a five metre cosmic classroom for up to 40 people - runs state-of-the-art professional planetarium software, developed by Nightshade and supplied by Digitalis Education, to reach people who may not ordinarily have access to the educational facility.

The observatory’s own planetarium presenters offer bespoke sky tours for all ages at the mobile unit, together with a selection of short films about light pollution, the formation of the universe, and galaxy collision.

The science centre has taken its cosmic shows in the mobile unit to venues far and wide, from London’s Science Museum to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill and have supplied the planetarium for clients including Barclaycard and home education groups.

Jo Harris, education director at The Observatory Science Centre said: “We are delighted to be entering this new exciting phase of our educational development; with investment in equipment and the development of new projects giving rise to fantastic opportunities for education providers across the south east.

“Our ethos is that science should always be spectacular and fun - experienced during a visit to the observatory, or through an outreach presentation.

“We hope that everyone - regardless of age or ability - will gain the confidence, curiosity and interest to continue to explore and ask questions.”

The new dome will add to the observatory’s current outreach, which includes an existing four metre mobile planetarium, plus ScienceWorks: a range of mobile interactive science exhibits based around subjects including electricity, forces and light.

ScienceWorks is an educational charity which holds the Learning Outside The Classroom ‘Quality Badge’. This is a national benchmark awarded to providers of high quality learning experiences.

As well as the new mobile planetarium to help expand people’s knowledge of the universe, the annual Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival will take place in early September.

It will offer a full programme including planetarium shows, lectures, trade stalls and astronomical observing. During the year, there are also a number of catered themed evenings linked to astronomical events and even a night of classical music with the Herschel Quartet.

For information on the planetarium, email, or visit the centre’s website at