A good number of society members were at the free (but ticketed) talk held in Whitby Museum on 18th September given by Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology at Edinburgh University.

The Normanby room was full to capacity for Prof Cockell’s lecture on the work being carried out deep underground in Boulby mine, already well known for its work on Dark Matter and other fundamental issues in cosmology.

Discoveries made by recent space probes have raised both scientific and public interest in astrobiology and Prof Cockell explained how work down a Yorkshire mine is contributing to this exciting field.  The question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe is one of the most profound, and conditions experienced one kilometre underground at Boulby Mine are now being utilised in preparation for exploration of other planets, especially scientific research issues relating to astrobiology.  The location is also being used for the testing of robots and other equipment, helping us prepare for the eventual human exploration of space.

The lecture was most enlightening regarding the diverse nature of work and collaborations, both current and future, being undertaken in and around the Dark Matter Laboratory, including working visits by future ISS astronauts.  It is Prof Cockell’s belief that the multinational research projects being planned will in time permeate right through to the ‘sharp end’ of future explorations and the understanding of astrobiology on worlds such as Mars, Europa and Enceladus.  Exciting times lay ahead!