In the late summer of 1666, a 23-year-old man saw an apple from a tree on the outskirts of Grantham, Lincolnshire. That man was Isaac Newton, and that small act of nature sparked the discovery of the principle of universal gravitation.
Over 300 years later, this discovery is celebrated every two years at the Gravity Fields Festival in Grantham. This unique festival offers a mixture of science, art and heritage events that creatively explore the physical sciences and celebrate one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Sir Isaac Newton.
This year the festival fell between 24 – 28 September. Members of Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy, Chris North (Herschel Space Observatory/ Inspiring Science Education) and Sarah Eve Roberts (Universe in the Classroom/ LCOGT) were invited to host a number of events throughout the week, including several A-level workshops, an observing session and a street science exhibit for the public.
The pair kicked off with three workshops at Harlaxton Manor for 14-18 year old students from three local colleges. Participants were familiarised with the different types of astronomical object in Messier Bingo, discovered the multiwavelength Universe and created a H-R diagram with help from Star in a Box. Thanks to the long summer, the students were able to end the session with some solar observations using a Coronado telescope.
On Friday evening Harlaxton Manor opened its gates to the public for a night of observations. Chris and Sarah used LCOGT telescopes based in South Africa and Australia to observe southern sky objects, while Chris Lintott, Jen Gupta and Brooke Simmons, along with a host of local amateur astronomers, set up a selection of telescopes outside for public observations.
On Saturday, the event moved into Grantham town centre with a science exhibit (among other attractions) in the main Shopping Centre. The exhibition was fantastically popular and included astronomy materials from Universe in the Classroom and an infrared camera.