Peter Barthel is professor of Astrophysics of Active Galaxies at the Kapteyn Institute of the University of Groningen. Until July 2018 he was Director of the Groningen Pre-University Academy. He is chairman of the Royal Netherlands Astronomical Society, RNAS. Besides his scientific work, he has also made many contributions in the areas of science communication and education, of which the various posts below testify. Peter Barthel formally retired at the end of 2018, but he plans to continue working part-time.
As part of a series of murals devoted to famous Groningen professors, Barthel and colleagues realized a mural for astronomer J.C. Kapteyn (1851-1922), founder of the Groningen Kapteyn Institute. In addition they produced an animation for children on the life and works of Kapteyn; it can be viewed here.
In april 2023, Peter Barthel initiated a project for elementary school children, around the famous image of earth made by the NASA/ESA Cassini mission in 2013. Goal of the project is to educate children about Earth Day (April 22). Three short films were produced, together with Joanna Holt and Marieke Baan of the national astronomy …
Together with his former colleague Mark Neeser, Peter Barthel produced several well-known astronomical photographs, using multi-band exposures with the FORS Camera of ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Three of these appeared together in ESO’s web release Three Dusty Beauties, whereas another one – the Sombrero Galaxy, Messier 104 – features in the top page of the website you …
At the occasion of the 4th centenary of Groningen University in 2014, Peter Barthel and his colleague George van Kooten organized the first ever interdisciplinary international scientific conference on Matthew’s story of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi. The resulting book was published by Brill, and is available as (600-page) hardback and paperback.
In winter 2010 Peter Barthel carried out a small project researching the moon phases as depicted on SantaClaus (Sinterklaas) gift wrap and books, and on Christmas cards, in The Netherlands and the USA. The resulting publication caused many smiles and substantial press coverage, including the Dec5 Pauw & Witteman talk show.
Together with his Groningen team Peter Barthel won the 2007-08 national Academische Jaarprijs for science communication, for their project “Discover the invisible universe”, explaining infrared radiation and infrared astronomy to school children and the public-at-large. In 2014 Barthel won the national Willem de Graafprijs for his efforts in astronomy outreach and education.
Summarizing the views which he developed through many years of publicly discussing the relation between science and religion, and motivated by a question of a 7-year old elementary school pupil, Peter Barthel published his short, unique booklet “Professor, bestaat God?” (“Professor, does God exist?”) in 2017. Its fourth edition appeared in September 2023, and the English version is awaiting …
Peter Barthel contributed to Lenie Reedijk’s archeological research dealing with the possible orientation towards the star Sirius of the stone-age temples on Malta.
Peter Barthel’s Inaugural Lecture (in Dutch), delivered on June 8, 2004, the day of the Venus transit, can be found below.
Barthel formally retired at the end of 2018, but he plans to continue working part-time. A festive retirement concert took place in December 2018, in the Groningen Oosterpoort concert hall. The Groningen student symphony orchestra Mira, conducted by Pieter Bosma, played the Academic Fest Ouverture by Brahms, Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto (with soloist Martin Oei) …
Kapteyn mural and animation