Portsmouth academic finds stellar YouTube success with space videos

A University of Portsmouth cosmologist has hit new heights of popularity with over 100,000 viewers tuning into his YouTube channel to watch a video about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Dr Chris Pattison, a Senior Research Associate at the University’s Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation, completed his PhD in 2020 and has been vlogging about space for a year. 

He’s covered topics like what a black hole is, dark matter, and explaining developments in astronomy. His goal is to communicate relatively complicated topics in simple ways that are accessible to anyone, even without a science background.

One of his most recent videos – explaining why images of stars from the recently-launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) appear to have spikes – has reached over 105,000 viewers around the world and counting.

Dr Chris said: “Recently, the brand new (and exciting!) James Webb Space Telescope released a new photo of a single star to show how well the telescope is working, and I made a video to explain why the star looks so “spiky” in this image. This video did very well for me, and I think this is just because it covers a common question about a current piece of space news. 

“Many people are very excited about JWST and the photo was huge news, but the official press releases didn’t explain the so-called diffraction spikes in plain terms. This means lots of people were looking for an answer to this and luckily some of them found my video.”

Chris added: “I try to strip back all the unnecessary details and jargon and just talk about the key points that are most important. I just want to talk about space and science with as many people as possible, especially if they don’t usually interact with that topic but have an interest in the field.”

Find out more about Chris’ work and more of his videos on his YouTube channel.