When astronomy went virtual
September 19, 2022

When astronomy went virtual

Astronomy is a powerful tool to bring people closer to science – even in challenging times, such as those of the COVID-19 pandemic. The beauty of the night sky, the charm of distant and exotic phenomena, the continuous discoveries in space exploration: all of these elements intrigue the public, especially young people, promoting at the same time a sense of solidarity and union between people. 

Right from the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, in fact, many professional and amateur groups have become involved with live streaming astronomical events to the general public. At the beginning, these events served as a way of providing sky watching and science outreach opportunities during the confinement conditions imposed by the pandemic. But now, they have become an extraordinary tool to share these topics with a wide audience spread over many countries around the world.

In order to reflect on some of the lessons learned from these initiatives, a Monday-evening session at EPSC2022 in Granada will bring together researchers and public outreach practitioners from across Europe.

The session will also look ahead to future celestial events — for example, an upcoming partial solar eclipse on 25 October  — and discuss how the astronomy community can capitalise on the opportunities they create.

The chairperson of the session is Graham Jones, an astrophysicist and science communicator at timeanddate.com, the world’s leading website for time and time zones, that has been broadcasting eclipses and transits since 2016.

The co-conveners of the session are Claudia Mignone, astrophysicist and science communicator at INAF, the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, and Helen Usher, research student at the Open University in the UK who works with the Faulkes Telescope Educational Project and leads on the Comet Chasers education and outreach project.

The session at EPSC2022 will be held on 19 September at 17:30 CEST in Room Andalucia 3.

An online follow-up workshop is being planned for Wednesday, 23 November (starting at 13:00 CET) — anyone involved with providing astronomy live streams is invited to join this virtual session. Anyone interested is welcome to get in touch with Graham Jones via graham@timeanddate.com