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The University of Leicester Planeterrella

Dr Gabby Provan (RSPP) has been awarded two STFC Science in Society Small Awards to purchase and publicly exhibit a ‘planeterrella’, a plasma device that illustrates the aurora using a magnetised sphere and electron source in an evacuated chamber. Unique within the UK, the planeterrella is a highly popular means of increasing public understanding of auroral science, and an inspirational device for engaging school pupils in core STEM subjects.

This exhibit has appeared at a number of events, most notably at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, a BBC Stargazing LIVE event, the Manchester International Science Festival, and an IoP conference, as well as being the focus of many outreach events at local schools and societies, to date engaging with 20,000 people.

Further information go to http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/physics/outreach/planeterrella

PDF - 21.6 kb Gabrielle’s acknowledgements
PDF - 175.1 kb Rapport sur les activités de la planeterrella


The department’s Planeterrella was exhibited at the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lecture on Dec 30th 2015. This year’s lectures celebrated the launch of Tim Peake to the international space station, and explored the topic ‘How to Survive in Space’. The lecture included a discussion on the physics of the northern lights, and the Planeterrella was used to recreate ‘auroral lights’ in the studio. Below is a still from the show, showing the Planeterrella presented by Kevin Fong and Lucy Green.

La Planeterrella de Leicester La Planeterrella de Leicester en Grande Bretagne

Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG)