• Dr.
    • Peter Barthel
    • University of Groningen - The Netherlands
    • Astrophysics of Active Galaxies


Fascination by the Universe started millennia ago, and led for instance Pythagoras and others to propose the theory of Musica Universalis, the Harmony of the Spheres. These days, lots of popular music appears, inspired by black holes, cosmology, space travel, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, etcetera. I will here concentrate on the more classical types of astronomy-inspired music, or astro-music, and - utterly incomplete - will be giving examples from Baroque to modern times. Among these are operas and an operetta, orchestral pieces including complete symphonies, choral works, cantatas, piano compositions, but also music for marching bands. I will conclude by describing two recent projects in which I am involved myself: live and filmed performances of astronomy-inspired piano music by the Estonian composer and amateur astronomer Urmas Sisask, and by the great Russian composer Alexander Scriabin.


Following Physics and Astronomy studies in Amsterdam, Peter Barthel (1952) obtained his PhD at the University of Leiden in 1984, on a Thesis "Radio Structure in Quasars". He held postdoctoral fellowships at the Astronomy Department of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, USA, during 1984-1988, before starting his employment at the Kapteyn Institute of the University of Groningen. He became Full Professor in March 2004, in the field of Astrophysics of Active Galaxies. While he formally retired at the end of 2018, he is still chairman of the Royal Netherlands Astronomical Society, and continues to work part-time. In his spare time he collaborates with professional musicians in astro-music projects and films, with visual artists creating academic street art, and he thinks and writes about the relation between religion and science.