Talk: Dr Natalie Starkey ‘Catching Stardust’

‘Catching Stardust: revealing the secrets of comets and asteroids

Natalie Starkey


In this talk we will discover how our mysterious cosmic neighbours, the comets and asteroids, have acted to shape our past, possibly delivering key ingredients to Earth for life to begin. We will also explore how these icy, dusty spacefarers may play an important role in our future.


Icy, rocky, sometimes dusty, always mysterious – comets and asteroids are among the Solar System’s very oldest inhabitants, formed within a swirling cloud of gas and dust in the region of space that eventually hosted the Sun and its planets. Locked within each of these extra-terrestrial objects is a 4.6-billion-year wisdom of Solar System events, and by studying them at close quarters using spacecraft we can coerce them into revealing their closely-guarded secrets. This offers us the chance to answer some fundamental questions about our planet and its inhabitants.

Exploring comets and asteroids also allows us to shape the story of Earth’s future, enabling us to protect our precious planet from the threat of a catastrophic impact from space, and maybe to even recover valuable raw materials from them. This cosmic bounty could be as useful in space as it is on Earth, providing the necessary fuel and supplies for humans as they voyage into deep space to explore more distant locations within the Solar System.

In this talk we will explore these enigmatic celestial objects, revealing how scientists are using them to help understand a crucial time in our history – the birth of the Solar System, and everything contained within it.



Natalie Starkey is a geologist and cosmochemist who has analysed volcanoes in the Caribbean, meteorites from Mars, and even pieces of comets and asteroids. Her work on the comet space missions, NASA Stardust and ESA Rosetta, led to her writing her first popular science book, Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the birth of the Solar System.

Natalie’s passion for her research makes her a keen science communicator. She received a British Science Association Media Fellowship in 2013, and regularly appears on television and radio internationally, as well as being a science host on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular StarTalk Radio. She is currently a freelance writer and science communicator based in East Anglia and writing her second book, Fire & Ice: Space Volcanoes.