“Planets In Your Hand” – in lockdown but still active in outreach

“Planets In Your Hand” – in lockdown but still active in outreach

This guest post is from the “Planets in Your Hand” project, which received funding from Europlanet 2020 RI through the Europlanet Outreach Funding Scheme 2017.

The Planets In Your Hand (PIYH) team at the University of Athens in Greece stays continuously in touch with the public through its social networks. On an almost daily basis, the most interesting science news and discoveries related to the field of Planetary Science and exploration are posted, while the team interacts with the readers via their comments and questions. The team has also remained active during the entire lockdown period, by participating in online outreach events and conferences.

The “Planets In Your Hand” team participated in the EPSC 2020 Conference by presenting a poster entitled: “Planets In Your Hand: The social impact of a tactile experience” on September 21st, 2020. In the context of “EPSC 2020 goes live for schools” and in order to continue the science communication with the general public despite the difficulties, the scientific coordinator of the PIYH program, Dr. Kosmas Gazeas, gave a live talk in collaboration with the Lecturers Without Borders (LeWiBo). This talk, reaching schools all over the world, was entitled: “A walk on the Moon”. An abundance of classrooms attended the activity with many students participating actively and asking questions, resulting in an overall rating of 9.6/10 among the talks from all viewers and participants. 

During World Space Week 2020 (WSW 2020)“Planets In Your Hand” team celebrated the contribution of science and space exploration to humanity. Following all safety procedures and taking under consideration the special circumstances and national restrictions, the team celebrated this year in an alternative way. Every day and throughout the week, an image of the planets and the moons of our Solar System was posted on social media and disseminated throughout the public. Every image was accompanied by a caption and a text with interesting information about the depicted planetary object and its history of exploration. These astronomical images were taken by the “Planets In Your Hand” team members during WSW 2020 from the University of Athens Observatory (UOAO). The audience showed their enthusiasm by posting their comments online. 

Enhancing the “Planets In Your Hand” outreach impact, during the last day of WSW2020 festivities, an online public talk was given by Dr. Kosmas Gazeas, in collaboration with the Amateur Astronomical Association of Sparta “Dioskouroi”. The title of the talk was: “Comets: The visitors of our Solar System” and it was broadcast live from the Astronomical Union’s YouTube channel:

If you would like to find out more about “Planets in your Hand” and the group’s activities, follow them on Facebook

Inspiring stories – ExoWorld Spies

Inspiring Stories – ExoWorld Spies

An exoplanet project as a vehicle for public outreach!

In the second of our Early Career Inspiring Outreach Stories, EPEC Outreach Co-chair Anastasia Kokori explains how the public can become ExoWorld Spies and contribute to missions exploring worlds orbiting other stars.

Introduction: Exoplanet research today

To date, more than 3.900 exoplanets have been discovered. Exoplanets are planets orbiting other star, outside our Solar System. However, we know very little about them. For example: What are they made of? How were they formed? Could they host life? Future space missions such as NASA’s JWST and ESA’s ARIEL will try to answer to these questions.

The ExoWorlds Spies project

To help these space missions and make them more efficient, we need to know when exactly these planets pass in front of their stars. In our project “ExoWolrds Spies”, we use small and medium scale telescopes to “spy on” already known exoplanets for long periods of time. In this way, we can track their paths around their stars precisely and let the spacecrafts know when exactly to observe them. The public can become “ExoWorlds Spies” by obtaining or analysing observations and contribute to real astronomical research.

What is the methodology we use?

After obtaining the data with the telescopes we analyse them with computer software in order to measure the light coming from the star. As the planet passes in front of the star, the star is becoming dimmer. The drop of the light will give us information about the planet: its size, its orbit and its transit timing.

Exoplanet research as a collaborative effort!

This research involves a variety of audiences including professionals and amateur astronomers who are observing target stars with their telescopes. We believe that science can be done by everyone and science is for everyone and thus, volunteers from the public can also become participants. In the near future we aim to create more interactive tools so everyone can access them and get directly involved in real exoplanet research! You can find more information here

Public outreach

The project is a great tool for public outreach. For the past three years our team has been organising presentations both for the public and school students in Greece to spread the science behind exoplanets and planetary science. A dedicated website has been created where we upload articles and publish posts related to new observations of targets and other exoplanet articles.

 

We have been running a social media page on Facebook where our followers get information both on the ExoWorlds Spies project and planetary science news. A variety of audiences have already been engaged through the project and the feedback so far is very positive. We wish to spread the word in other communities around Europe so more people can learn about exoplanets. If you would like to get involved, e-mail us at: exoworlds.spies@gmail.com
You can visit our website for more information or follow us on Facebook and get updated on the exciting field of exoplanets!

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of Inspiring Stories and get inspired!