EXPLODING lemon juice, hand-made replicas of the digestive system, Tibetan singing bowls, and four billion-year-old meteorites could all be found in Abingdon on Saturday with the return of the ATOM festival.

The eight-day celebration of science saw hundreds of children, and adults, get ‘hands on’ at the Science Market, while a range of informative talks were held throughout the day at Our Lady’s Abingdon.

Saturday’s scientific extravaganza marked the start of what organisers are calling ‘the biggest ATOM festival yet’, now a regular and popular fixture for the residents of the town and beyond.

Festival committee chairman, James White, said: “We are very pleased with the turn out today, both in Market Place and at the talks.

“We are all about interactivity.

“We want to interest and enthuse young people and their parents with science and allowing them to get involved with the stalls at the Science Market really helps with that.”

The Science Market saw a range of stalls set up in the town centre each giving interesting, interactive, and sometimes messy, demonstrations of various scientific topics.

Youngsters were able to see how food-stuffs are mashed up, digested and then removed from the body with a hand-made replica of the human digestive system at the Oxford Hands on Science stall.

University volunteers also showed the explosive results of mixing lemon juice with bicarbonate of soda in a closed container.

While at the Bright Sparks Science stall, children saw how vibrations were used to create sound in a Tibetan singing bowl.

Jenny Higgins (aka Nitro Jen) of Bright Sparks Science said: “The festival gives us a great platform to get the message out there that science is fun.

“The kids really love getting involved.”

Aspiring scientist, Rafiq Dajda, 7, whose mother Nafeesa, works at the Harwell Campus, spent time ‘painting the earth’ on a dinner plate at the campus’ stall, while Gemma Bound and her two daughters, Darcie, 8 and Mia, 6, were amazed to be handling a meteorites from Mars and the Moon that were billions of years old.

Mrs Bound said: “It’s great. We were just passing and Darcie and Mia wanted to come and have a look.

“They’ve really enjoyed it - it’s something a bit unusual.”

Tim Davies, member of the Oxford University student society Hands on Science said the Science Market was a great way to not only engage children, but also parents.

He said: “We really want to get children involved in science and one of the best ways to do that is to get their parents interested too, which hopefully we’ve been able to do today.”

The eight-day event was created in 2014 by residents keen to take advantage of the town’s position as an ‘epicentre of UK science’ due to its proximity to Harwell Campus, the Rutherford Appleton laboratory and Culham Science Centre.

The remainder of this week will see a star-studded line-up of scientists, including The Sky at Night presenter Professor Chris Lintott, and descend on Abingdon to give a series of talks.

Mr White, said the response to the festival, now in its fourth year, has been very positive fuelling plans to continue to expand the event.

“This is the biggest and most wide-ranging festival yet. It’s not just a local event anymore and we want to continue to expand.

“I’m hesitant to say national but there is definitely the potential for development.”

For more information visit http://www.atomfestival.org.uk/