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Writing Skyscapes

Unit(s) of assessment: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Research theme: Global Heritage

School: School of Science and Technology


Most scholarly research focuses solely on the historical engagement with the sky, with contemporary cultural engagement remaining neglected. In cultural astronomy the heritage of the night sky is seen as being entirely lost in modern western societies.

Addressing the Challenge

We organise and facilitate a 2 day workshop for up to 14 academic and non-academic participants in collaboration with Royal Observatory Greenwich and Creswell Crags Museum, both rich in heritage but quite diverse in their setting. They contrast historical time and picturesque settings against industrial modern environments. High profile experts and poets provide an extra dimension to these fully immersive writing environments.

In addition, we will host an exhibition of the images shortlisted in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year (IAPY) Competition 2018. Written outputs of the workshop will be exhibited alongside the images.


The team is led by Associate Professor Daniel Brown who is an astronomer, together with Associate Professor Sarah Jackson, Professor Phil Leonard and Joanne Dixon who are base in the English department.

Daniel has extensive experience in working on Skyscapes both pre-historic and contemporary including work on the IAPY competition and is currently working on an edited volume on “Visualising Skyscapes”. Phil Leonard works on technology, globalisation and orbital culture soon to published in a monograph, Orbital Poetics. Sarah Jackson has extensive knowledge on writing and technology.

Making a Difference

The project will bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers and non-HEI institutions to develop stronger working relation as well as establishing a more detailed research question to capture and explore the contemporary sky(scape) experience.

Our project and resulting AHRC network grant and CDA will noticeably change this perception and lead to a promising environment in which cultural astronomy can be critically embedded within a modern context. This would also allow institutions such as the Royal Astronomical Society to include a more robust heritage agenda within their work. It could also support a sky interpretation for museums that have not done so in the past.