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. 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.


Astronomical photographs

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,

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The Bethlehem Star

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.

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Santa and the Moon

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.

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On God

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,

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Astro-music: Keys to the Stars

Starting in 2008, Peter Barthel collaborates with the Grieg Pianoduo, Elles van der Heiden and Siebert Nix, in a project combining 4-hand piano music with astronomy video.

The collaboration featured a world premiere in september 2009,

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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.

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Malta temples and Sirius

Peter Barthel contributed to Lenie Reedijk’s archeological research dealing with the orientation towards the star Sirius of the stone-age temples on Malta.



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Inaugural lecture

Peter Barthel’s Inaugural Lecture (in Dutch), delivered on June 8, 2004, the day of the Venus transit, can be found below.

Inaugural Lecture


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