Open House Festival

Burlington House: Royal Astronomical Society

institution/profession, scientific, library

Robert Richardson Banks and Charles Barry, 1874

Piccadilly, W1J 0BQ

The home of the Royal Astronomical Society since 1874, refurbished in 2007. Part of the extension to Burlington House to provide accommodation for learned societies.

Getting there


Piccadilly Circus, Green Park


9, 14, 19, 38, 6




Open House 2023 at the Royal Astronomical Society

We are delighted to welcome visitors to the Royal Astronomical Society during the Open House festival. We will be open all day on Saturday 16th September for pre-booked guided tours and children's activities.

Children's science activities

This year children's science activities will be taking place in our Lecture Theatre on Saturday 16 September. Sessions will be running at 10:15, 11:15, 14:15 and 15:15.

These sessions need to be pre-booked. Places are limited to 20 children per session, and children must be accompanied by an adult (up to two adults per child).

Learn about comets, stars, constellations, and our Founders the Herschels themselves! There may also be an encounter with astronomer Caroline Herschel!


See the architectural features of the building, and learn about the history of astronomy and of the Society through guided tours with RAS staff, and a special display of books, manuscripts and artefacts in our library. Actors from Spectrum Drama will bring to life some of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of science.

The Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House

The Royal Astronomical Society moved into Burlington House in 1874. Before then, it occupied rooms in Lincoln’s Inn and Somerset House. The Society’s apartments were specially built by the government for the learned societies which were required to vacate Somerset House, and the RAS now shares the courtyard of Burlington House with the premises of five other learned societies: the Linnean Society of London, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Geological Society of London together with the Royal Academy of Arts. Glass panels in the doorways were glazed with etched panes showing the logos of the various Societies. The ‘AS’ monogram can be seen in the front doors, and is repeated in plasterwork in the staircase, and in the cast iron radiator panels in the main hallway and in the main library on the first floor. Leading on from the inner lobby is the building’s entrance hall, with a splendid staircase and a lift, with glass panels revealing striking astronomical images. At the foot of the main staircase is a bust of founding member Francis Baily (by a sculptor called Baley!), presented by Baily’s sister after he died in 1837. On the first floor landing is a window designed and produced by Sally Scott, in association with Nero Designs, made from 10mm thick white glass using acid, sandblast and colour. This window is an abstract interpretation of astronomy and geophysics. It shows a cosmic spiral, containing the motto of the Royal Astronomical Society, quicquid nitet notandum (whatever shines should be observed). Within the spiral are numbers of astronomical importance: 2.73 (the temperature of the cosmic microwave background) and 223 (the number of lunar synodic months in a Saros cycle of eclipses). The 5 Platonic Solids are timeless symbols of the elements and the relationship of mathematics to the Universe. The elliptical orbits represent the journey of the Pioneer space probes, the first spacecraft to travel on interstellar trajectories. The first floor landing leads to the Society’s Library.

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