A Planetary Scientist's Unexpected (Animated) Journey at 6pm

A view of the mountains and the Milky Way across the sky from left to right.
Sam Goodgame, Unsplash
Start Date
End Date

The Royal Astronomical Society is pleased to announce that our Public Talks for the 2023-24 season will take place at Burlington House at 1pm and 6pm. 

This talk is a hybrid event and is free and open to the public and will take place at Burlington House and online at 1pm and 6pm.

To register for the 1pm hybrid talk. 

To register for the 6pm hybrid talk. 


A Planetary Scientist's Unexpected (Animated) Journey

The rings of Saturn are falling into the planet at an alarming rate. They may be a mere faint ring of their former selves in a few hundred million years, which sounds like a lot, but it's less than 10% of the age of the solar system. This finding was the result of a study I led which would be published on Monday 17th December 2018. However, I had an unshakable picture in my mind about what Saturn would like in 300 million years, on the Friday beforehand, and a burning desire to show it to others, somehow. After a lot of fast work, I had managed to create an animation showing Saturn's dying rings, it was the first I'd ever made, and ended up at the top of an article in the NY Times about our work on the following Monday. Animation revealed the hidden visual in my head for this mechanism and its consequences, it is a powerful and fast way to show people the world as you see it. This talk is about how I got my start in animated science communication, how it has been useful for explaining our Giant Planet work, and how it all blew up on social media.


Headshot of a man wearing a white t-shirt.
Dr James O'Donoghue


About our speaker

Dr James O’Donoghue is a planetary astronomer and STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow at the University of Reading. Prior to this, he was an International Top Young Fellow at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Japan and a Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. His research involves the astronomy of Giant Planets Jupiter, Saturn and exoplanets, with recent astronomical discoveries making global news: for example Saturn’s rings aren’t going to last forever — they are falling into the upper atmosphere, and Jupiter’s aurora heats the entire planet. James has a passion for educating people about the wonders of space; he creates space science-themed animations which are used in schools, planetariums, universities and museums globally. These videos have over 250 million views across Youtube, Twitter and other platforms, and have led to hundreds of news articles. In 2021, in recognition of these efforts, he was awarded the Europlanet Society Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Sciences, and a finalist in the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.

You can check-out Dr O'Donoghue's animations on his YouTube channel @Interplanetary.


A large Earth-based telescope in the background with an astronomer taking a selfie.
James O'Donoghue


This event will be hybrid and takes place at the RAS Lecture Theatre at Burlington House, Piccadilly as well as online via Zoom. It will also be livestreamed on our YouTube channel.


Venue Address

The Royal Astronomical Society,Burlington House


51.5085763, -0.13960799999995