Astronomical Heritage Committee

2024 Members
  • Dr Rebekah Higgitt (Chair)
  • David Sellers (Society for the History of Astronomy representative)
  • Brian Sheen 
  • Dr Daniel Belteki
  • Mark Hurn 

Ex officio members:

  • Sian Prosser (Librarian and Archivist, secretary)
  • Philip Diamond (Executive Director)
  • Professor Mark Lester (Senior Secretary)
  • Dr Lee Macdonald (Chair of the Library Committee)

The Heritage Committee is an advisory body to Council; it is the strategic body for consideration of all matters relating to heritage assets in astronomy and geophysics and should provide timely recommendations and advice to Council on the required actions and expenditure to ensure that such assets are studied, protected and maintained, both for their greater enjoyment and to the potential benefit of future historical research.

Terms of reference and responsibilities

The Heritage Committee has delegated authority to perform the following functions:  

•    To work on behalf of the Society to help ensure that cultural properties and artefacts significant in the development of astronomy and geophysics , together with their settings, are duly studied, protected and maintained, both for their greater enjoyment and to the potential benefit of future historical
•    To liaise with other national and international bodies concerned with astronomical history and heritage, in so far as they impinge on UK properties and interests, to help achieve the above aim.
•    To provide, on behalf of the Society, active support for the development and implementation of UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage initiative, which promotes “significance in relation to astronomy” as a new criterion for the inclusion of cultural properties on the World Heritage List.
•    To work, in conjunction with the Education and Outreach Committee and other RAS Committees as appropriate, to enhance public interest, understanding, and support in the field of astronomical and geophysics heritage.
•    To advise the RAS on light pollution issues concerning heritage sites and to help preserve the spectacle of the dark night sky as a universal heritage of humankind.
•    Advise on the suitability of RAS Heritage items for loan and display.  
•    generate and consider proposals to use heritage assets to support education and outreach activities in astronomy and geophysics, such as exhibitions open to the general public.
•    recommend candidates  to be considered for RAS and other relevant Awards by the RAS Awards Committee
(a) The range of properties and objects in question includes ancient sites and monuments with demonstrable links to the sky (such as Stonehenge), instruments of all ages, archives, and historical observatories.

In regard to the specific management of the RAS Heritage Committee, the RAS Council has agreed the following:  


•    The Committee shall consist of the Chair (who should be a Fellow), at least one member of Council  and up to 5 members who may either be Fellows with relevant experience or external experts with relevant experience; normally one member will be nominated by the Society for the History of Astrononmy. 

Term of Appointment

•    Officers/Councillors serve for the duration of their term in office; others for 3 years, with the
option of a further renewal of 3 years.

Other attendance

•    The Librarian and Archivist shall attend each meeting and will act as Secretary. 
•    The Chair of the Library Committee shall normally attend all meetings in an ex-officio capacity.
•    A Council Secretary shall normally attend all meetings in an ex-officio capacity. 
•    The Executive Director shall normally attend all meetings.
•    Subject matters experts from other relevant organisations will attend by invitation.

Approval of appointment to the Committee

•    Council will be asked to approve the membership of the Library Committee annually, normally at the
meeting in December. 


•    Two meetings are held, one normally in December. One or two additional meetings may be held during the year; these may be virtual or in person.