Science and Technology Facilities Council
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Green laser to light the Oxfordshire sky


Reports of strange green lights in the skies around Harwell in Oxfordshire could be rife this evening (29 June). But it won’t be the start of a Martian invasion, just the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) testing its laser projection system for the Harwell Campus Open Day!

Today, and at intervals in the run-up to the open day on Saturday 11 July, the laser projector will shine a bright green beam of light into the night sky. On a clear night the beam is expected to reach at least 2 km into the sky so should be visible for miles around in the surrounding towns and villages, and will herald the start of the campus celebrations.

When there are school visits or other outreach events going on, the laser will also be able to project inspiring messages onto the side of one of the buildings on the campus site.

“The laser has a scanning system so the single beam can be used to write messages and project images,” said STFC Central Laser Facility engineer Brian Wyborn.

“We’ve been in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority, Thames Valley Police, and various local authorities so they are all aware that the laser beam will be projected over the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Harwell Campus Open Day on Saturday 11 July is a celebration of the world-leading science and engineering projects that are carried out on the site every day. For the first time in more than 10 years the campus doors will be open to the public so they can get a peek behind the scenes at some of the World’s most spectacular and powerful science facilities.

Visitors will be able to tour the STFC Central Laser Facility and see its Vulcan laser, which produces a beam so intense that it is like taking all of the sunlight shining on the Earth at any one moment and focusing it onto a pin head; the Diamond Light Source, the iconic silver ring that works like a giant microscope and produces light 10 billion times brighter than the sun; RAL Space which designs, builds, and tests instruments that will be launched into space, including hi-definition cameras now on the International Space Station; and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source which is used for a huge variety of science, from designing new medicines to testing materials used in aircraft.

As well as the chance to explore the facilities themselves, there will be many activities on offer for children and adults alike during the open day including:

  • Extracting DNA from strawberries
  • Rocket building and launching
  • Finding out how X-rays help us learn about dinosaurs
  • Playing with a particle accelerator in a salad bowl
  • Programming mini robots to navigate around a map;
  • Becoming a synchrotron scientist with the help of a Lego beamline
  • Tracking down T-cells used to fight cancer

Visitors to the site will also be able to see some of the finds from Henry VIII’s ship the Mary Rose, take a ‘selfie’ with a gigantic cast of a Gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton, and star in a Matrix-style ‘frozen time’ film sequence.

Keep up with the latest Open Day news on twitter: #Harwell15

More information

Marion O’Sullivan
STFC Press Office
Tel: 01235 445627
Mobile: 07824 888990

Notes for editors

  1. Entry to the site and all activities are free, but all visitors are asked to register for Harwell Open Days to help us manage the large number of people and cars coming onto the campus site. We are expecting around 10,000 visitors on Saturday 11th July.
  2. How to find us: Map and directions.


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