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Cosmologist in award-winning documentary

Professor Nichol in a scene from the award-winning documentary.

Professor Nichol in a scene from the award-winning documentary.

A TV documentary made with the help of a University of Portsmouth astronomer has won an international award.

The BBC Horizon documentary Dancing In the Dark: The End of Physics? – which featured a major contribution by Bob Nichol, a professor of astrophysics at the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation – triumphed in the best TV documentary category in the 2015 Science TV and New Media Awards.

First broadcast on BBC2 in June this year, it profiles scientists’ hunt for dark matter – the mysterious particle believed by scientists to make up 95 per cent of the mass of the universe.

Cosmologist Professor Nichol was approached at an early stage by director Peter Leonard, initially to discuss ideas and offer informal advice on the script.

Then, when the director found out Professor Nichols was going to be visiting the European Southern Observatory in Chile, he became one of the experts featured on screen.

“My journey to Chile became part of the concept of the programme. I spent about four days filming scenes in and around Chile. The director had me driving up and down mountains in a pick-up truck – it was a blast,” said Professor Nichol.

“This is the biggest involvement I’ve ever had in a documentary. The end result was terrific.

Cosmologist Professor Bob Nichol.

Cosmologist Professor Bob Nichol.

“They got David Mitchell, the Peep Show actor, to narrate it, which brought a little bit of humour to it. But basically it was just telling a really good story.”

Professor Nichol believes the dark matter particle could be discovered within just a few years, and will be a ‘revolutionary’ moment in science akin to the discovery of the Higgs boson.

The awards were organised by EuroPAWS, a project designed to promote the best European productions involving science across TV and audio-visual media.

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