Catherine Heymans

Catherine Heymans

Head and shoulders image of Professor Catherine Heymans
Professor Catherine Heymans (she/her), the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, will be appearing online as a Special Guest at this year’s Worldcon. As Professor of Observational Cosmology at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the GCCL Institute at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, Catherine specialises in observing the dark side of our Universe using deep sky observations to test whether we need to go beyond Einstein with our current theory of gravity. 

Catherine is currently part of a large international team preparing for first light at the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile. As one of the largest telescopes in the world, Rubin will  create the first movie of our Universe, looking for anything that moves in order to locate potential killer asteroids that could one day obliterate planet Earth!  Catherine is certainly hoping that we won’t find any evidence for that future doomsday scenario, with her true passion lying in the by-product of this search: the deepest widest view of the cosmos, the ultimate data set to unveil the origin of the mysterious dark energy that permeates our Universe.

Catherine’s recent two-year long battle with Long Covid and her passion to nevertheless continue her scientific research featured in a widely-shared Long Read article and podcast in the Guardian.  Before the pandemic, Catherine appeared at music, art, philosophy, comedy, TED-x and science festivals.  Worldcon will be the first time she returns to “the stage” since falling ill, made possible thanks to the full online access offered by Glasgow 2024.

Looking forward to her appearance, Catherine said “I’ve always loved the way that science fiction influences and drives scientists to think even bigger, and how scientists in turn inspire sci-fi writers to create and innovate new big dreams. Our communities spark off each other and I’m really looking forward to being part of the sparkle in Glasgow this summer!”


Professor Catherine Heymans is the 11th Astronomer Royal for Scotland, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen in 2021, the first woman to hold this title in its two-hundred year history.  In 2022 she became the youngest person to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s prestigious William Herschel medal for outstanding merit in observational astrophysics.   She is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Leopoldina, the National Academies of Scotland and Germany. Catherine is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and TV, providing expert comment for a wide range of physics and space stories.  She authored “The Dark Universe”, published as part of the Physics World Discovery Collection with the Institute of Physics.  She also contributed to “Scotland in Space”, twinning with sci-fi author Russell Jones to create the short futuristic love story “Scotland at the end of the Universe”. 

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