The University of Southampton

Supernova science at Southampton Airport

Published: 15 February 2016

Passengers travelling from Southampton Airport can learn about one of the most powerful astronomical events in the Universe during half-term this week.

From Monday 15 to Thursday 18 February, researchers from the University of Southampton's Astronomy Group will engage passengers waiting in the departure lounge with their world-leading research on supernova stars.

The scientists will hand out compressed hand towels with supernova printed on them and use hands-on demos to explain what a supernova is and why their research is so important and exciting. The astronomers hope to talk with at least 1,500 passengers across the four days of activity.

Dr Sadie Jones, Outreach Leader in Astronomy and the activity leader, says: “I’ve given out a few towels already and people of all ages really seem to love them. The hope is that when passengers arrive at their destination they will ‘expand’ their towel and this will remind them of the conversation they had at the airport about ‘expanding’ supernova in space.”

Passengers will be encouraged to tweet a before and after picture of themselves using the hashtag #AstroAirport.

The activity is funded by a Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) public engagement award to see how members of the public, who wouldn’t normally choose to attend science events, respond to discussion about astronomy research in an environment where they would not be expecting it. This is also one of the first attempts to communicate science in an airport departure lounge, beyond the security gates.

More information about the members of the University of Southampton Supernova Group and their astronomy research can be found at

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