The Sun at Night at BBC StarGazing Live

The Sun at Night

The Sun at Night

On Thursday 9th Jan, the Engage UCLan team were lucky enough to be invited to take the amazing art installation, The Sun at Night, down to one of the BBC’s StarGazing Live events at Royal Holloway University in Surrey.

The Sun at Night is a project devised by staff from The University of Central Lancashire; Artist in Residence, David Henckel and Lecturer in Music, Dan Wilkinson. It features a 4mx10m cylindrical, back-lit projection screen. This shows high resolution images of the sun, taken by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. A year’s worth of these images has been compressed into a 30 minute film that is projected whilst being slowly rotated around the circumference of the screen. The film is accompanied by a deep and sinister soundtrack that has been composed to mirror the images. The Sun at Night aims to explore our relationship with our closest star and to provide a new and creative way to disseminate the SDO’s research.

After a successful premiere in Preston’s Victorian Covered Market in November 2013, the installation came to the attention of the BBC who then invited us to take The Sun at Night to the live event that was accompanying the Stargazing Live TV show on Thursday 9th January. Obviously we were over the moon (to stick with the astronomical theme) about this, and so packed up the structure and our bags and made our way down to Surrey for the event.

The structure going up

The structure going up

The size of the structure does pose some issues, especially with the wind, but we took our anemometer and luckily the wind speed never exceeded our safe limit.

Jo checking the wind speed with our now beloved anemometer

Jo checking the wind speed with our now beloved anemometer

The set-up of the structure went really smoothly, with the help of some really amazing contractors from TouchLine Fabrications and a great projector from AtoV, and so come the arrival of the 4000+ public visitors we were ready for action.

Testing the projector as the light fell

Testing the projector as the light fell

Professor Robert Walsh, Dr Daniel Brown and other members of the UCLan Solar Group, Andrew Walker and Peter Zelina also came down for the event, so along with David, Dan, Jo and Jenny (when kitted out in our fabulous yellow hoodies) we were a swarm of Sun at Night commentators. We had some great discussions with the event attendees and a great time explaining to people exactly what The Sun at Night was and then letting conversation spark (along the lines of a Coronal Mass Ejection – we know all about those now!) from there.

The yellow hoodies – ready to tell you about The Sun at Night

Have a look at the video on for a taste of what the installation and event was like – in short…brilliant!

We are already looking forward to possibly taking The Sun at Night to the BBC Media City in Salford later this year and have also had interest from the production company that worked on the event to take it on a touring roadshow.

And the best bit….we got on the telly! At the beginning of Thursdays StarGazing Live show on BBC2 the Royal Holloway event was described as having ‘the most awesome projection of the sun’ and then the 3.5 million viewers were treated to a tantalising glimpse of The Sun at Night. Hooray!


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