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, whereas another one – the Sombrero Galaxy, Messier 104 –  features in the top page of the website you are currently reading. The relevant web release is Fine Shades of a Sombrero. Several of these VLT images appeared as NASA’s APOD, Astronomy Picture of the day, such as Messier66.

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, of a new work “The Sombrero Galaxy”, composed for the Grieg duo and Barthel, by Estonian composer Urmas Sisask, for which the composer used Barthel’s Sombrero poster as inspiration. More information can be found in the article on p.16/17 of the July 2011 issue of the Journal “Communicating Astronomy to the Public”.

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, unique booklet “Professor, bestaat God?” (“Professor, does God exist?”) in 2017. Its third edition appeared in Spring 2019, and the English version is in preparation. Reviews can be found here.

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. The resulting book was published by Brill, and is available as hardback and paperback.

Pre-university Academy

Peter Barthel became the first director (Rector) of the Pre-university Academy (Scholierenacademie) of Groningen University, in 2005. This Academy, which recently celebrated its 12.5 years of existence, is now an important tool in the outreach towards secondary school students. The Science Hub Northern Netherlands (Wetenschapsknooppunt Noord-Nederland), targeting elementary schools was added in 2010. Many Children’s University (Kinderuniversiteit) lectures and lots of other inspirational activities have been offered since 2005. The picture below shows a lecturer (Dutch astronaut), director Peter Barthel, and Academy coordinators Arjen Dijkstra and Douwe van der Tuin. In July 2018 Barthel stepped down: prof. Diederik Roest became his successor.

Secondary education (astro)physics

Peter Barthel was member of the (2005-2011) NiNa (Nieuwe Natuurkunde: New Physics) committee revising the national secondary education physics curriculum.  The revised curriculum now offers elementary astronomy and astrophysics within the HAVO and VWO exam programs. A short description as well as relevant documentation (in Dutch) can be found here.

Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony

At Peter Barthel’s initiative, Mozart’s last symphony, #41, KV 551 “Jupiter”, was performed in the central hall of the Faculty of Science and Engineering building, end of 2009, to mark the end of that year – the World Year of Astronomy.


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.