Our Space Heritage: Public event to celebrate Leicester’s long-standing space expertise

Professor Ken Pounds in his lab at the University of Leicester in 1971.

Members of the public will have the opportunity to hear from one of Leicester’s space pioneers at a special event celebrating the city’s space heritage later this month.

Ken Pounds CBE, Emeritus Professor of Space Physics at the University of Leicester, kick-started space research in Leicester more than 60 years ago with his work studying X-ray radiation from the Sun and other sources, which revealed one of the first known black holes.

Space research at Leicester is now almost unrecognisable: with a dedicated research, innovation and teaching cluster now in operation at Space Park Leicester, and some of the world’s leading astronomers and planetary scientists hosted within the School of Physics and Astronomy. University researchers – including Ken – were also among the group which established the UK’s National Space Centre in the city.

Professor Pounds will celebrate Leicester’s long-standing work beyond Earth with a public lecture looking back at more than six decades of space expertise. ‘Our Space Heritage’ will be hosted on the University of Leicester’s main campus on Thursday 30 June 2022 (6.00pm to 7.15pm) and is free to attend.

Emeritus Professor Ken Pounds at the opening of the Space Research Centre at Space Park Leicester in 2022.

Professor Pounds, who was also guest of honour at the opening of Leicester’s new Space Research Centre earlier this year, said: “Moving to a lectureship in Leicester from the UCL Rocket Group – with a doctoral thesis still incomplete – reflected the pace of change in the early months of the ‘Space Age’, in our case with a launch date of the Ariel 1 satellite, to monitor the Sun's x-radiation, just two years ahead.

“Ariel 1 worked well for several weeks, but then was severely affected by debris from a nuclear bomb test by the US Air Force – as were several other NASA satellites.

“While our solar research continued throughout the 1960s, the discovery of several remarkably bright ‘X-ray stars’ in the night sky set us on a more exciting future, studying the other stellar X-ray sources in our original remit. Nature did not let us down!”

Professor Sarah Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College for Science and Engineering, added: “Leicester’s major global role in astronomy and planetary sciences is a source of great pride for the University and our region, and Ken’s role in establishing space research here all those years ago has been key to the success in decades since.

“Truly transformative research – whether on our planet or beyond – is powered by the drive and determination of people like Ken.

“While we take this opportunity in the University’s Centenary year to celebrate what has gone before, I hope that both our research community and members of the public alike will also be inspired to look ahead to what the future of Leicester’s space research holds.”

While Our Space Heritage is free to attend, guests are encouraged to book their place via Eventbrite.