Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 – 24 September 2021
Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 September – 24 September 2021
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 15, EPSC2021-619, 2021
European Planetary Science Congress 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Destination: Space! A Virtual Flash Talk Series

Katherine Shirley1, Helena Cotterill1, Tristram Warren1, Helena Bates2, Robert Spry1, Sian Tedaldi1, and Neil Bowles1
Katherine Shirley et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, University of Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain (
  • 2Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain

Introduction: During the series of national lockdowns, interacting onsite with local schools became difficult and increased the demand for virtual content. To meet this challenge, we created an online programme entitled “Destination: Space”, aimed at showcasing the current planetary research conducted within the Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Planetary Physics (AOPP) department at the University of Oxford. Over six weeks, school students from the UK and around the globe joined us on an out-of-this-world journey exploring space and planetary physics. Destination: Space has introduced students to fascinating areas of science, including the search for water on the Moon, meteorites and sample return missions, and whether there really could be other life out there in the universe. 

Talks were hosted online in a live webinar-style, where the audience could interact with and ask questions of the scientists involved in each event. The series consisted of four short seminars, one game show style event, and one purely question and answer panel session. The seminar sessions consisted of a short talk delivered by AOPP scientists focused on their research with time for audience questions. The game show event was loosely based on the “Would I lie to you?” BBC hit television show and had the scientists presenting short statements and inviting the audience to determine whether it was fact or fiction. This format encouraged audience participation and debate through the webinar chat feature. Due to the large number of questions we were unable to get to during the seminar sessions, a Q&A panel was added to the series. 

Reception: The Destination: Space programme was advertised well in advance of its commencement through the Oxford Physics Outreach department mailing lists connected to local schools, and through social media accounts. Over 750 local and international audience members attended the series with an additional 1000+ viewers watching the recorded versions on YouTube as of this time. 

Project Assessment: For the seminar sessions, polls were used to assess the audience’s knowledge before and after the talk, with the majority self-reporting an increase in understanding of the topic and overall positive comments from the audience, including several emails from teachers supporting the project. The game show session incorporated polls throughout to encourage an interactive event, and showed the audience actively debating in the chat and reaching the right answer 85% of the time. Responses to this event were overwhelmingly positive and many cited the interactivity as enhancing their experience. Overall polling showed support for the programme and calls for similar series covering other space topics. We will look to create another series for the upcoming school year, and to create more activities for teachers to use in conjunction with the programme. 


The recorded programme can be found here:

How to cite: Shirley, K., Cotterill, H., Warren, T., Bates, H., Spry, R., Tedaldi, S., and Bowles, N.: Destination: Space! A Virtual Flash Talk Series, European Planetary Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-619,, 2021.