A HOLOtta Fun

Explaining astrophysics using 3D holograms

This a fun and interactive workshop to share our cutting edge research findings on star formation undertaken at the University of Leeds. Using 3D holograms we tell the story of star formation, with students able to watch a cluster form and evolve over millions of years before their very eyes, in a matter of minutes. Students also make their own smart phone-sized hologram projector which can be used in conjunction with our App to evolve clusters at home.

The aims of this workshop are to teach young people and members of the public about astronomy, in particular star formation, and to promote the awareness and disseminate the importance of research and collaboration in the field.

To book this one-hour workshop in your school, please get in touch with Erin McNeill, Physics Outreach Officer, at e.mcneill@leeds.ac.uk.

This workshop is funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Public Engagement Spark Award and led by Dr Anne Buckner and Professor Stuart Lumsden.  To learn more about star formation, please visit our Astrophysics at Leeds web pages.

Please note that we may not be able to deliver the workshops to your school as we have a limited numbers of schools we can work with as we will prioritise schools based on local Widening Participation requirements, along with other indicators.

What astrophysics research is done at Leeds?

How interstellar molecular clouds collapse and form new stars is a key question in astrophysics. At the University of Leeds, we are particularly interested in the birth of the most massive stars. These play an important role in the evolution of galaxies by injecting large amounts of enriched material and energy back into the interstellar medium and powering spectacular phenomena such as H II regions, stellar winds and supernovae.

Why study star formation?

Individually these clusters of stars act as laboratories, demonstrating how stellar systems comprised of various masses work and interact as member stars share similar properties. Collectively clusters provide insight into the chemical and structural evolution of the Galaxy. In this way, Star Clusters are arguably one of the most fundamentally important astronomical objects, being tracers of both stellar and Galactic evolution.

How do you research star formation?

We use observational techniques to see how stars form using a variety of wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum including optical, infrared and millimetre through to the radio waves.  The telescopes we use are able to form very detailed images of stars that are a very long way away.  These images are so small that we work with Theoretical Physicists to build models about star formation, using computer programs and simulations to learn more about how these stars form.

Why do you use 3D holograms?

Astronomical topics are intrinsically abstract and typically only 2D telescope images are available as visual aids to explain complex 3D ideas. Consequently, it can be very difficult for students to grasp a good understanding of these objects. For example, Star Clusters are the building blocks of the Galaxy, with the majority of stars being formed within them.

For this reason we created an innovative schools workshop program which not only projects astronomical objects as giant 3D holograms, but allows the participants to watch astrophysical processes happen right in front of their eyes.  However as these clusters are huge, very distant, 3D collections of stars, they are quite hard for students to wrap their heads around!

What is the format of the workshop?

Each workshop fits into a 45 to 60 minute science lessons. If you lessons are slightly shorter or longer, please let us know beforehand so the workshops can be altered.