The new EUSPA Horizon Europe call is structured along 5 topics with a variable thematic span and objectives:
Develop commercial downstream solutions, based on synergies between the EU space programme components, for green, smart and more secure solutions addressing a variety of social and economic challenges;
Fulfill gaps in mature, regulated and long lead markets;
Develop new Copernicus-based applications for business and policy-makers;
Support the internationalization of Copernicus demonstrating the advantages and differentiators of EU space-based solutions outside of Europe;
Identify and address technological challenges related to the provision of GOVSATCOM services, improving operational terminals and demonstrating user access to early services.
The overall budget is 34,5 million. The deadline is on 14 February 2024.
A Blink of a Star: An Occultation Citizen Science Project – Europlanet Funding Scheme 2023 Grant
Fostering curiosity about planetary sciences and space in general is the basis of the project conceived by Sergio Alonso Burgos and the team of “A Blink of a Star“, which has been awarded a grant under this year’s Europlanet Funding Scheme for Public Engagement.
The project is focused on the occultation of Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) by Asteroid (319) Leona on 12 December 2023, which will be easily visible with the naked eye on various places on Earth. Such an uncommon phenomenon offers a great opportunity for outreach about these events and the science involving their study.
Federica Duras interviewed Sergio Alonso Burgos, the project leaderof this citizen science project which aims to complement the professional observations of the occultation through an outreach campaign to engage the public with the science behind these phenomena.
–Sergio, where does the idea of “A blink of a Star” come from?
In the Sociedad Astronómica Granadina (SAG) we have a small team which is interested in observing occultations of different Solar System bodies: from asteroids from the main belt to more difficult targets as some transneptunian objects or even Polymele, the trojan asteroid to which NASA is going to visit with the Lucy mission. We are proud to be some of the few that managed to obtains useful data in a recent Polymele campaign in Spain (October 1st, 2021) thanks to a very accurate prediction made by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA).
During the past several years we have had a quite strong ProAm (Professionals-Amateurs) relation with the IAA scientists: they provide useful predictions and perform the scientific analysis of the light curves and we provide our portable powerful telescopes and devices (occultations may happen anywhere) and experience in the field, as not all professional astronomers know how to correctly set up a portable telescope in the middle of the countryside.
A few months ago we started talking about the great occultation that is going to happen on 12 December 2023: Betelgeuse is going to be occulted by asteroid Leona. This is a very special occasion because by observing this event, scientists are going to be able to determine very important features of Betelgeuse that are still unknown such as, for example, its exact radius. This may seem strange, as Betelgeuse is a very bright star that can be easily spotted with the naked eye. However, that extreme brightness of the star hinders precise measurements as the cameras and instruments get saturated in a fraction of a second. We discussed how interesting it may be for anyone to observe this event, as no special equipment is needed. We thought that it could be a fantastic opportunity to introduce the general public to astronomy, occultations and the science behind this discipline. And here we are, trying to launch a project in which almost anyone with a normal camera may be able to record the event and thus contribute in the scientific study of Betelgeuse and Leona.
–How many people are involved in the creation and subsequent implementation of the project?
The project will involve dozens of people for all different activities that have to be made.
For the scientific part of the project (previous observations and computations for both Leona and Betelgeuse and the later analysis of the obtained light curves) we count on some of the IAA scientists. However, some of the SAG members are learning the procedures to reduce the data from the observations and even do some preliminary analysis in order to ease the task to the scientists. Moreover, IAA scientists will supervise all the resources that we are going to produce for the project to avoid any mistakes.
For the outreach part of the project we count on some specialists in scientific outreach from the Fundación Descubre. Not only they are used to promote outreach activities, but they have also contributed to several different citizen science projects and they will be of great help to gather interest in the project from many different groups: high school students and teachers, city halls in the towns where the occultation will be visible and the general public.
However, the biggest effort concerning the citizen science project will be on the SAG members. We are a small group (around 20 people) but we will be in charge of coordinating and preparing all the activities that are going to be carried out: from conferences to preparing tutorials on how to do the observations, a photography contest related to the event and so on.
–How difficult is it to coordinate the people involved, being so different types of figures (astronomers, amateurs, citizens)?
It is not easy but, fortunately, we already have some experience organising these kind of events, even if at a lower scale, and the relation among the different actors at this moment is quite good. One of the best things of this kind of projects is that professional astronomers, amateurs and outreach professionals know what can be done by each group. I’m pretty sure that in the following weeks the amount of emails, video conferences, telephone calls and Telegram messages will increase a lot, but I hope we will be able to manage it properly (now I’m crossing fingers).
–What do you expect from the project? And when (in time)? Since the event takes place on 12 December 2023, these next weeks are going to be very intense. At this stage the main goal is to attract a lot of people to record the event in order to have as many light curves as possible. After the event, the IAA team will perform all the scientific analysis of the results and hopefully determine important information about Betelgeuse and Leona.
For the outreach side of the project, we expect to grab the interest of the public, especially high school students, hoping to transmit them the passion for science and present a real example of performing a scientific experiment with a rigorous protocol. We are going to make a special effort to attract as many female students in all the activities of the project as possible to try to narrow the gender gap in STEM. We want the project to continue after the occultation event itself by presenting results to the scientific community in different conferences and doing more activities for the general public. I would like to point out that there is a section on the event website that could be useful for teachers, with an online simulator that allows them to better understand the phenomenon and generate ‘artificial light curves’.
Additionally, we hope that some amateurs astronomers that have not previously had interest in the study of this kind of events will participate in future ProAm occultation campaigns.
–Do you think Europlanet could be a useful link? And if yes, why?
Of course it will. We know that many observers from Europe are thinking about travelling to Spain for the occasion and the diffusion of this project by Europlanet may help us to get in contact with all those observers to try to coordinate and get the best results.
-Is this a term-project? If not, what is the future of the project?
At this moment, the plan is that the project will end once all the analysis of the data is made, all programmed activities are finished and once the results are published. Since this event is quite unique we cannot guarantee that the project will continue (at least in the same conditions). However, we expect that the experience to coordinate so many people with different backgrounds will be useful for other future occultation campaigns.
Fingers crossed Sergio, we cannot wait to see what this collaboration will bring and to find out what secrets of Betelgeuse will be revealed!
Mainly addressed to school students between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, it als supports teachers and educators with three stories about the planets: a general overview of all the Solar System planets, the Earth and Mars.
Get ready to start the journey for discovering the Solar System with Bimbim (a cute little dog who really asks a lot of interesting questions) and all his friends. The pilot episode (here in English) has been translated in French and Portuguese and it comes with great illustrations and a funny story behind the scientific content.
We don’t want to reveal too much so… enjoy watching and see you at the next stop!
Find out more about the ideas and the creators of Bimbim’s Team in this interview with project lead, Katia Pinheiro. The project was also presented at EGU2023 in Vienna:
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A Journey to the Planets: how to make children fall in love with space
Making children curious about space and planetary sciences through play and puppet theatre is the idea conceived and developed by Katia Pinheiro and the team of “Journey to the Planets“, the winning proposal of this year’s Europlanet Funding scheme for public engagement.
The project will start by producing a series of short movies with stories about the planets told by Bimbim’s team, an original and funny puppet theatre. The videos will come with illustrations and animations to better express the scientific content which, for now, will focus on a general overview of all Solar System planets, the Earth and Mars.
The promise is that more will come, thanks to the support and work of many researchers from Germany, Macedonia, India, Argentina, UK, and the producer and the theatre companies from Brazil. Reflecting the international nature of the project, the videos will be translated into several languages (initially Portuguese, English and French), in hopes of reaching an international scale.
Federica Duras interviewed the project leader Katia Pinheiro, who nurtures a passion for science outreach, especially directed to children. This project is an opportunity to pursue her dream to combine the two.
–Katia, where does “Journey to the Planets” come from? What’s the trigger behind it? I want to transmit science to children. Initiating children into scientific subjects is not a trivial task. I thought about a way to attract their attention and a way to encourage their critical thinking and active participation. Puppet theatre seemed to be a good idea since puppets have the power to fascinate children. Charismatic characters as interlocutors may talk about science in an unconventional and fun way. The strategy to combine science and art may be a powerful way to awaken children’s curiosity about planetary sciences.
–Why Bimbim? What is that? Bimbim is the nickname for Jobim, who was a famous composer of Brazilian music. I gave his name to a smart and funny small dog some years ago. This little dog was very charismatic and liked to “talk” to everybody around him, especially children. He is the inspiration for the protagonist of the stories: courageous, curious and fun!
–How many people are involved in the creation and subsequent implementation of the project?
There are 15 people involved in the different parts of the project: story writing, production, filming, puppet manipulation, dubbing and animation. This project brings together artists and scientists from different parts of the world working on various research areas. All the co-applicants of this project are female professionals of arts and science. The scientific co-applicants will participate with ideas and scientific content for the stories. The theatre company “Papa Vento” is involved in the artistic part and they will manipulate the puppets. An audiovisual director and producer will capture the images in the best way to tell the stories.
–What is the near future of the project? We will produce short movies with three stories about the planets: a general overview of all solar system planets, Earth and Mars. The release of the movies will be in January, 2023. We expect that these stories will also call the attention of schools and parents to bring science closer to their children. Another project outcome is the large involvement of female scientists and thus the possibility of attracting children from under-represented groups to become scientists. Our target audience is primarily school students between the ages of 2 and 8 years old but it also involves the audience of educators. The plan is to share the videos with many schools and social media channels across Europe and other countries worldwide.
–What do you expect from Europlanet as a link for the project? Europlanet is a very important link for starting the first science story of “Bimbim’s team”. The support of Europlanet for outreach and education projects promotes new initiatives and, in the case of this project, tackles the challenge of reaching as many children as possible and awakening their curiosity for planetary sciences. The dissemination of the puppet videos by Europlanet will encourage more scientists and organisations to take the step of creating something similar and spreading the word. In addition, the commitment of Europlanet to equality, diversity and inclusivity perfectly matches the intentions of this project.
–And what about the distant future of “Journey to the planets”? We plan to extend these stories to other planets and science topics in the near future. We expect that after these videos are ready, schools and companies may become interested and request presentations in place or other online videos with science stories. New stories coming in the future will be about the deep Earth, ocean, space and others. We believe that once we start this project, new ideas will emerge that will be the seed for next larger projects.
Fingers crossed, we look forward to following the first steps of Bimbim and its friends! Thanks Katia.
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