Coleshill Astronomical Public Observatory


Learning Centre


We are delighted to feature Karen Masters, a former student of The Coleshill School and now Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, PA, USA. Jan 2018-



Karen says,

I am an Astronomer studying galaxies in the Universe.
I am a Reader (Associate Professor) in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, UK, and from 1st January 2018 I am an Associate Professor in Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, PA, USA.
I am the Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo and most of my research time is spent combining classifications from this project with other data to study galaxy evolution and I'm the Spokesperson for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey ( SDSS-IV) - for my science I'm most interested in data from the MaNGA survey part of SDSS-IV.
In recent years I'm grateful for funding from a Google Faculty Research Award, SEPnet, The Leverhulme Trust, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Technology Research Investment Fund.

Karen's recommended links:



My Publications:

My CV & PhD thesis:

  • My CV: pdf.
  • Download my PhD thesis: "Galaxy Flows in and Around the Local Supercluster" (Cornell, 2005) pdf (warning: large file!).

Scientific Outreach/Public Engagement:

This is now a very incomplete listing of scientific outreach/public engagement type activities I have been/am involved in since my first exposure to public engagement as a summer planetarium operator (in 1998!).

I collect blog posts from all the other places I write them, and also write about other science things at my personal science blog: Beautiful Stars.

I have written a Book Chapter about Mary Somerville, for the Ada Lovelace Day charity (you can read it free at the above link, or purchase the eBook in support of Ada Lovelace Day promoting stories of women in science.

I was the Public Engagement Co-ordinator for ICG, Portsmouth (2011-2017). In latter years this was mostly just telling Jen Gupta she was doing an awesome job.

Galaxy Zoo

I am very pleased to be involved in the Galaxy Zoo project. I am using Galaxy Zoo classifications in much of my current research, and I'm a contributor to the Galaxy Zoo blog. You can see all of my postings here. I'm especially proud of organizing the She's an Astronomer series, which was part of the IYA2009 She's an Astronomer project.


I was the Public Engagement Co-ordinator and Spokesperson for LOFAR-UK (~2009-2013). This was a role I started as the installation of the first LOFAR-UK station in Chilbolton began. This has involved co-ordinating press releases, rennovating and leading. the online presence for LOFAR-UK, dealing with media enquiries etc. Check out the LOFAR-UK website and our blog. You can also watch videos I produced (and presented) about LOFAR-UK on my YouTube Channel including the below Tour of the Chilbolton station.

[ Click to watch video: Tour of the Chilbolton station ]

School Visits

I like to visit schools to talk about astronomy when I can. I will often blog about such visits school visit tag on my blog, which will give an idea of the content I can offer. I often talk about The Solar System and the Scale of the Universe and give out my "Colour the Solar System" activity. If you are a school teacher looking for a visit (particularly in Portsmouth) please get in touch. I am able to tailor the content to your curriculum needs/age group. My email is at the base of this page.

I am a member of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight STEMNET programme which provides a CRB check, training and links to local schools needing visits.

Public Talks

I can currently offer public talks about "The Science of Galaxy Zoo", "A Zoo of Galaxies", LOFAR/Radio Astronomy History, "The Transit of Venus and the Scale of the Universe", and "End of the World 2012?".

Recent public talks:

Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

I was a question answerer and website developer for Curious? Ask an Astronomer, (a service of the Astronomy Department at Cornell University) starting in 2000. The Ask an Astronomer program, (started and run mainly by Graduate Students at Cornell on a completely voluntary basis) maintains a website and answers questions sent in by the public on all areas of astronomy. We completed a drastic up-date of our website and launched the new version in May 2002. I continue to be involved as a "guest question answerer".

Questions answered by me.

Project ASTRO, Boston

In 2006-2007 I was involved in Project-ASTRO in Boston. I co-planned and taught an 8th Grade Astronomy Enrichment Seminar with Cathy Longley-Cook (8th Grade Earth Sciences Teacher), Wilson Middle School, Natick, MA. I returned to the school in 2008 to talk at their Star Party.

Expanding Your Horizons

Expanding your Horizons is a one day conference on the Cornell Campus for middle school age girls. The aim is to encourage them in their interest in science, maths and engineering. I was involved in this program 2002-2005, first as a workshop leader of the Galaxies Galore workshop, then also as one of the organizational committee chairs in 2003 (T-shirt chair). In 2004 and 2005 I was one of the three Conference Co-chairs responsible for the over-all management. EYH at Cornell has grown into a large program in the last few years. We have many sponsors responsible for providing us with a budget of over $20,000 and invite up to 200 girls (and their chaperones) for the day. Over 300 volunteers from the Cornell community make this one day event possible.


GSSOP (Graduate Student Schools Outreach Program) is designed to help Cornell graduate students teach a mini-course in a local school. In the Spring semester of 2004 I taught a course 'Understanding the Sky' to Ms. Snow's 2nd grade class at R.C. Buckeley Elementary School in Lansing, NY. MSWord Documentation (hosted at the GSSOP site).

Focus for Teens

Focus For Teens Astronomy Program, Cornell University, Summer 2001-2005. In 2001 I ran the galaxies workshop with Kristine Spekkens. We played with Chris Mihos's Java Applet on merging galaxies (GalCrash). I also ran the workshop on Life in the Universe with Timothy McConnochie. In 2002 Kristine and me did the Galaxies workshop again. I also did the Planet Walk with Wynn Ho. In 2003 I did Galaxies with Amelie and the Planet Walk with Wynn. In 2004 and 2005 I just did the Planet Walk.

Cornell Adult University

Summer 2002-2005. In 2002 and 2003 I helped Wynn Ho run the observing nights at the Fuertes Observatory on campus for the CAU participants and their famillies. In 2004 and 2005 Brian Kent and myself took on the running of this program.

CONTOUR Comet Challenge

CONTOUR Comet Challenge. 2002. I was part of the panel doing the preliminary judging of the entries for this US national competition run by NASA, and I was also one of three graduate students to accompany the winners on their trip to see the launch from Florida on July 3rd 2002. Unfortunately CONTOUR stopped working (exploded?) during it's third stage firing just a few weeks later. That's life I guess.

Oxford Space and Astronomical Society

  • President, Oxford Space and Astronomical Society, Oxford, UK, 1999-2000. The year term ran from April-April. Duties included organising the speaker schedule and introducing and entertaining the speakers.
  • Publicity Officer, Oxford Space and Astronomical Society, Oxford, UK, 1998-1999. Produced term-card and kept members informed of events via mailing list. The Publicity Officer was also incharge of recruiting new members.

Davis Planetarium at the Maryland Science Center

I was a Console Operator at the Davis Planetarium in the Maryland Science Center, Baltimore,USA, June-September 1998. My main job was to help run the planetarium show every 20 minutes during the summer season. I got the chance to participate in some live star shows and also helped out with the opening of the Crosby Ramsy Memorial Observatory which is located on the roof of the Science Center. I was also involved in the yearly projector maintenance at the end of the summer. This summer in the US was done as part of BUNAC's Work America program.



Our thanks to Karen for providing such a wonderful insight into her life and work as a professional astronomer.






Vixen/Coronado Solarscope

B7.4 flares captured in active sunspot region 1271


C2.0 Solar Flare in Active Sunspot Region 1263


Sunspot Region 1236


Bright Prominences, with the size of our planet Earth shown to scale


Bright Prominences, with the size of our planet Earth shown to scale


Large Arch Prominence. Our planet Earth shown to scale


Time-stamped sequence of an eruptive prominence


Sunspots and Filaments



Celestron 11" Edge HD

Andromeda Galaxy

Craters Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel

Crater Plato and the Alpine Valley

Hadley Rille and Apollo 15 Landing Site (red dot)

Crater Clavius

Crater Copernicus

Planet Mars

Globular Star Cluster M13






© Coleshill Astronomy 2019