Robin Catchpole

Robin Catchpole

             Contact:Institute of Astronomy   
Madingley Road 
Tel.: (0)1223 337553
Mob.: (UK)077 1421 8670


Robin Michael Catchpole works as an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, having retired as Senior Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in July 2004.

Joined the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) from Bryanston School in 1962. After obtaining a BSc at University College London, he was posted to the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, S Africa (now known as the South African Astronomical Observatory) and spent the next 24 years, working first at the Radcliffe Observatory in Pretoria and then at the SAAO in Cape Town.

Obtained his doctorate at the University of Cape Town on The Properties of the SC Stars and the Chemical Composition of UY Cen, under the supervision of Prof. Brian Warner. In 1991 he returned to the RGO in Cambridge, until it closed in 1998, when he moved to Greenwich as Senior Astronomer.

In 1981 Robin married the sculptor, the late Gill Wiles (1940 - 2014). He currently lives just outside Cambridge, UK.

He has authored and co-authored over 120 research papers and articles and used a number of telescopes around the world including the Hubble Space Telescope. Research interests include the composition of stars, exploding stars, the structure of our Galaxy and galaxies with black holes at their centres. His current research interest is in the structure of the Bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy, as shown by Mira variables.

Lecture and Media Experience 

Since 1996 he has given over 1000 popular lectures in the UK, S Africa, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Spain to over 58,000 people. Has also given 440 TV and Radio interviews and participated in a number of programmes relating to astronomy.

Regularly lectures at the Cambridge International Science Summer School and for Summer Schools at Downing and Pembroke Colleges as well as on numerous Cruise Ships, tours to the arctic with Golden Eagle trains and at Game Lodges in South Africa and Namibia.

Current Lecture Titles 

Are We Alone?

Are We Star Dust or Nuclear Waste?

Asteroids Comets and Impacts. Should we worry?

From here to the Edge of the Observable Universe

The Sun and Climate Change

What is New in Our Solar System

The JWST how it works, Latest Results

The Star of Bethlehem


Solar Pyramid

Is responsible for designing the dial of the Solar Pyramid, a 45m high sundial to be built somewhere in England. The dial can be designed for a gnomon at any angle and be read directly, as it incorporates the equation of time. It was described in the British Sundial Society Bulletin, vol.20,June 2008. An example is shown below.

Solar Pyramid Dial

Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomy Centre

Greenwich Cone Cone Design

Robin was involved in the development of the new Astronomy Centre at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and in particular originated the design of the Truncated Cone, clad in 33 tons of bronze, that covers the Peter Harrison Planetarium, opened by the Queen in 2007. The design is unique to the latitude of Greenwich and references significant astronomical directions, as shown in the right hand diagram.


Story of Time (National Maritime Museum 2000)

Designed the Time Tower, hung in the Queen's House Tulip staircase, illustrating all the time in the universe. Also a four minute video sequence showing the birth and death of stars, projected onto the ceiling of The Great Hall of the Queen's House.

Lines of Enquiry (Kettle's Yard 2006)

Various graphs and drawings related to astronomy.

Beyond Measure (Kettle's Yard 2008)

Models of the Royal Observatory Greenwich Cone.

Klangwolke 2019 Solar (Linz, Austria 2019)

Acted as consultant and produced text for this event on the Danube on 7 Sep 2019

Clubs and Societies 

Royal Astronomical Society

Worshipfull Company of Clock Makers

The South African Archaeological Society

The Army and Navy Club
Last modified: Tue 10 Dec 2022, 12:40 by RMC