Complete Guide to Our Place in Space Solar System Art Trail in Cambridge


Our place in spaceA family-friendly 8.5km Solar System Sculpture Trail kicks off on Saturday July 30 in Cambridge with a weekend of free family events.

Our place in the space that begins on Midsummer Common. Artist Oliver Jeffers. Photo: Keith Hepell

Designed by artist Oliver Jeffers, with astrophysicist Professor Stephen Smartt and a creative team led by the Nerve Center, the installation – a combination of art and science – stretches from Midsummer Common along the River Cam at Cow Hollow Wood in Waterbeach.

The trail, which was previously on display in Northern Ireland, runs until August 29 and features scale models of the planets of our solar system and the Sun, recreated as contemporary art sculptures – an archway houses each planet with a arrow and his name as an illuminated giant sign on it.

Our place in space - the sculpture of the Earth
Our place in space – the sculpture of the Earth

Local partners helping to bring Our place in space in Cambridge include the University of Cambridge, Cambridge City Council, Cam Conservators and the Woodland Trust.

Our place in spacewhich is part of Unboxed: Creativity in the UK, invites participants to reflect on how we can better share and protect our planet in the future and what is the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

The map

What’s new

Saturday July 30 – Launch Weekend

Welcome the Our Place in Space sculpture trail to Cambridge during an extravaganza of talks, art, activities, music and food. Meet NASA astronaut Kayla Barron – Peterhouse graduate from Cambridge University – and enjoy live music from Waterbeach Brass, take part in a book signing with Oliver Jeffers, get crafty with SunSpaceArt…and more Again !

Sunday July 31 – Launch Weekend

A second day extravaganza of talks, art, activities, music and food. Enjoy an interactive space science show with Mark Langtry, explore the sounds of space, be resourceful with SunSpaceArt, join a special edition of Even You Song… and much more!

August 6-7 – Morning Yoga on Midsummer Common

Jump into your space shuttle and head to Mercury to join a yoga class that will help restore your body and mind with Karin Eklund.

August 6 – Ice from Above at the Polar Museum

Join the Polar Museum team and help map the coldest places on planet Earth with a giant floor map.

Satellites circle our planet, mapping important parts of the world from a distance using different types of light. How deep are the lakes? How thick is the ice? Are forests getting smaller? Come and discover how seeing the polar regions from above can reveal their secrets.

August 8-12 – Minecraft and coding sessions

Free digital workshops will allow you to create your own space vehicle or design a game inspired by the iconic Space Invaders arcade game.

August 13 – Midsummer Meteors – Silent Disco Skygazing

Taking place on Midsummer Common at the height of the Perseid meteor shower, this unique event will invite you to lie down and open your eyes and ears to the wonders of the sky. With immersive soundtracks from Sounds of Space and Cambridge-based artist Sarah Wood, this silent disco skygazing party will awaken your senses.

August 14 and August 21 – Tales in the Sun

Join expert storyteller Marion Leeper as she shares folk tales and legends about the Sun from cultures around the world. She will be joined by illustrator Tonka Uzu who will help you get creative inspiration from Marion’s stories.

August 28 – Picnic at the Planets, closing event

Help say goodbye to the Our Place in Space sculpture trail with a picnic on the planets. Enjoy hands-on creative STEAM activities, guided trail tours, Living Sport games, live music by the Lightwaves, Hunt and Darton’s interactive “Great Planetary Make-Off”, build your own rocket with the science team CHOAS or try on one of the Outspoken Smoothie Bikes to DIY your own free smoothie.

The people behind the trail

Oliver Jeffers is a Northern Irish artist, illustrator and writer who started the Sculpture Trail.

He told the Cambridge Independent“It’s a scale model of the solar system but rather than Earth’s place in our solar system, it’s more humanity’s place – so it’s a way of looking at human history remotely and to work with the astrophysicist, Professor Stephen Smartt, who did all the calculations to the nearest millimeter.

Oliver reveals that the idea for the project has been in his head “for years” and that it took “about two and a half years of preparation”.

The trail was in Derry in April, then moved to Divis, a hilly area northwest of Belfast with impressive views of the Northern Irish capital.

“Then here, and then where it goes next, there are two different options,” says Oliver. “But it will eventually end up in Northern Ireland.”

On top of the world, Jenny Hunt of Hunt & Darton.  Photo: Keith Hepell
On top of the world, Jenny Hunt of Hunt & Darton. Photo: Keith Hepell

So why Cambridge? Professor Stephen Smartt chimes in: “So Unboxed didn’t have any of their projects in East Anglia and they said because we were planning to move it to Northern Ireland: ‘Could you bring it here and do you have any connections ?’

“I work at the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s [University, Belfast] and I worked at the Institute of Astronomy [University of Cambridge] here so I phoned them and said, ‘We want local support, local contacts’.

“They said, ‘Yeah, we have contacts on the board’ and so it was coming from those local connections, plus something that was missing in the whole Unboxed festival – there was nothing in that area of ​​East Anglia. And because it’s mobile, they thought, ‘How about we bring it here?’ »

The couple note that the trail was “extremely popular” in their native Northern Ireland. “In Belfast we had it on the mountain overlooking Belfast,” says Stephen. “You have to make an effort to get up there, but every time I was there it was full. And it wasn’t just the kids – a lot of the people walking were adults.

Professor Smartt adds: “One of the other things I think about is kids when they do it, they just ask a lot of questions and that’s what we want. We try not to tell them too much, but a good piece of art forces you to ask questions, and that’s what it does.

Read more: Fun for the summer as the new Book Bench Art Trail comes to Cambridge, Solar System Sculpture Trail to open in Cambridge]

Try the app

The trail is accompanied by Our place in space augmented reality application, available on Apple and Android, which allows users around the world to walk around the solar system, discover the planets in augmented reality and consider 10,000 years of human history on Earth.

Stephen Smartt, Professor of Astrophysics at Queen's University Belfast.  Photo: Keith Hepell
Stephen Smartt, Professor of Astrophysics at Queen’s University Belfast. Photo: Keith Hepell

Users are invited to collect memorabilia from space, including characters from the world of Oliver Jeffers, as well as launch a personalized star into space. A number of events will take place at the site over the next few weeks, including a talk by Oliver Jeffers (who will also be signing books), Professor Stephen Smartt and NASA astronaut Kayla Barron tomorrow (Saturday 30 July).

Learn more

You can learn more about

Our place in space is one of 10 major creative projects commissioned as part of a celebration of creativity taking place across the UK this year. For more information, visit

Unboxed: Creativity in the UK is funded and supported by all four UK governments and is commissioned and delivered in partnership with Belfast City Council, Creative Wales and EventScotland.


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