There are more stars in the universe than all the grains of desert sand on Earth


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Nov 17, 2010

I've Moved to Astronomy Communication and Outreach on Wordpress!

I trained as a Communicator and Public Relations Consultant during the day, while I enjoyed astronomy and observing the sky during the night. At some point, I’ve started combining the both and the result was astronomy communication or better said outreach. Taking communication ideas, concepts and practices and shape them to bring astronomy closer to people fascinates me. My new blog Astronomy Communication and Outreach on Wordpress is an attempt to share that fascination with you.

Whether you are a communicator, a science writer, a public information officer, an amateur astronomer or enthusiast willing to share your passion, I’m hoping you will find on this blog some ideas on how to interact more closely with the public and inspire people to look up to the sky. I also hope the posts to be an incentive for idea exchanges on how we can better communicate astronomy with the public.
Check it out!

Sep 9, 2010

Three steps to reach your target in astronomy communication and outreach

Tuesday, at the IYA2009 session from JENAM 2010, I had to deliver a presentation on the activities done in 2009 by the Astroclub Bucharest. Since I didn't want it to be just another description of activities with nice pictures, I decided to build a case for non-traditional ways of doing outreach.

This seemed like an easy and cool thing to do until I realised my talk was coming after several ones on mentoring and finding role models for teenagers/students today, while I was presenting a poster with top models next to telescopes(!). But then I realised...I just had to set a different challenge: instead of looking for role models, how about we use the existing "bad" ones for doing outreach and education?

The presentation doesn't really speak for itself as it had a lot of speech wrapped around, but I'll try to give you an executive summary :) and I'd love to answer questions or comments.

Once you know who you are and what's you want to achieve by communicating astronomy, there are three steps you have to take, in this order:

1. Research your target and find key insights about its lifestyle: where they go out, what they read, where they go on holidays etc. This will tell you where you will find them without the slightest effort of bringing them there. This may mean you'll have to take your scope out to a square with street art or make a projection of a planet in a drive-in cinema.

2. Choose the right channel - that is the channel they use, not the one that you use. Have you ever considered teenage magazines? Nobody reads the school magazine...

3. Speak their language if you want them to listen and understand. How about you get updated on some of the jargon out there?

More details here...

Aug 12, 2010

Boost your Perseid Meteorwatch Experience

An article written for MeteorWatch.

When @VirtualAstro asked me if I could share with you some impressions or tips and tricks about Meteor Shower observations, I did my homework and had a look at the previous blog entries. So I discovered that Astroguyz offered a concise, yet comprehensive overview of the most important tips to keep in mind when looking for meteors, complemented by Mark Zaugg’s post, while Deirdre Kellaghan shared with you the beauty of seeing such celestial show. So there I was in trouble, with both the technical and emotional parts already fully covered.

It is at this point when I decided to look at Meteor Showers from the most familiar point of view to me – outreach, the very core of #MeteorWatch, but taking into account a rather often situation: lay people whose selective memory only makes them recall that during a particular night – the peak – they can go out and see hundreds of shooting stars with their naked eye. As easy as that.

When I was back in Bucharest, at my astronomy club, this translated into visitors coming at the Astronomical Observatory, which is placed rather in the middle of the city, to see the shooting stars they had read about in the newspapers. With the light pollution around us and the limited time for visiting, you can imagine that most of them left the observatory rather disappointed and most certainly discouraged if this was the phenomenon astronomers proudly rated as top 3 next to eclipses and auroras, as Astroguyz correctly points out.

So I thought of a few ideas for observatories, planetariums, science centres etc. Ideas which I’m hopping will encourage you to share some of your Perseids outreach experiences with the public.

Close the observatory/planetarium and move to a dark area

You are not going to need instruments anyway so here’s your chance of not being dependent on a certain location. Plan to set up your observing station in a darker area, like a bigger park or somewhere at the outskirts of the city. Make sure you consult with public authorities and have their permission as well as security arranged.

Check your selected location during several nights and see if problems occur, like lighting from neighbouring areas. If it’s a park, arrange with local authorities to reduce the lighting during that night. If it’s an area next to the city, inform the locals in the area of the event, stressing the importance of dark skies and, better off, encourage them to join the event.

Invite people

Make an announcement inviting people to join you for a star party to hunt meteors together. Give precise details of location, directions and map how to get there, but also establish a meeting point from where to go together. Include a list of things to have like warm clothes, sleeping bag and blankets, red light, recording devices (and obviously internet connection to join the global community at #MeteorWatch )

Open a single communication channel where people can register and keep in touch until the event and make sure you point this out in the announcement. Send the announcement to the press, place it on your website, tweet it, put it on Facebook, make a poster, distribute flyers to visitors in the prior nights. Basically, use all available channels as best you can.

Apart from the general announcement, invite some key people to whom you would like to impress with your activities for future collaborations: journalists from newspapers or online portals, bloggers and, why not, even local authorities.

Create a community

Use a communication channel, whether it is your Twitter account, Facebook page, a discussion group, a forum etc. to bind these people into a community. After all, they will be sharing one amazing experience. Invite people to subscribe there and encourage them to bring their families and friends or share cars with other participants if they have free places.

Get people ready by telling them more about meteor showers, presenting them how the observations should be done, sharing tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts. Develop resources like maps to download or direct them towards the MeteorWatch website. Explain them how they can actually make science if they submit their observation to #MeteorWatch with location details which you can provide.

Run the event

Meet your community, hope for good weather and go observe the shooting stars, enjoying this wonder of the night sky.

Go around the groups of people and make sure everything is alright, see how they are submitting information, explain more if the case, but be discrete. After all you want them to look up the sky.

Evaluate, reward and keep in touch

After a good day’s sleep, have a look and see the impact of your event: how many people attended, how many tweets were there, how the event was covered in the media before and after the event. Write down what went well and what went wrong and make sure you improve next year.

Spot the most active or enthusiastic participants and give them a free entrance to your observatory/planetarium. They might be one step away from becoming amateur astronomers.

Keep your community active. Thank people for joining, encourage them to share their impressions and to give you feedback. Continue sending them information to keep them interested.

Do it again next year. Bigger. Better.

Jul 14, 2010

Bringing Astronomy Beyond the Doorstep of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms have rapidly evolved from simple entertainment to one of the most popular ways of sharing information, interacting and communicating.

Faster and more engaging than traditional media, social media gives control to individuals, who can turn into highly trusted and almost real time sources of information and opinions.

With every individual both a journalist and opinion maker, how can EPO (Education and Public Outreach) departments bring information to the public? The best solution seems to be taking astronomy to “every man’s land” and making its voice heard. How can science become social media friendly is a question this talk tries to answer.

More information @oanasandu or #AstroComm
You can join the conversation at
A talk delivered on 14 July 2010 in the ESO Auditorium.
For more AstroComm presentations please visit the ESO Astronomy Seminars page.

Apr 29, 2010

The Universe Is That Large...

The Known Universe was developed by The American Museum of Natural History in partnership with Rubin Museum of Art.

And to reiterate its exactness:

This film shows the known universe as mapped through astronomical observations. Every satellite, moon, planet, star, galaxy is represented to scale and in its correct, measured location.

If you're in Bucharest, you can live such experience, accompanied by live explanations, at the Astronomical Observatory "Amiral Vasile Urseanu". Here's a trailer of the presentation that is held every Friday and Saturday night.

Programul de planetariu de vineri si sambata seara from Adrian Sonka on Vimeo.

Apr 16, 2010

A talk from a SPACE MAN

By Lee Pullen

Oana and I, Queen and King of Campus Party, are now blogging live from the front line. So speak. But first here’s a brief synopsis of the previous evening’s discoveries.
This is “Zone Camping”. Please, Sir, could you point me toward “Zone Five Star Hotel?”

Read the rest of the adventures on the GAM blog.

Not even Madrid is safe from GAM...

By Lee Pullen

Hola from Espania! Or whatever they call Spain in Spain. Oana and I are spreading the GAM gospel far and wide. Well, as far and wide as Campus Party Europe, a.k.a GEEKFEST 2010. This display of talent and innovation in Madrid sees "800 young people from the 27 European Union countries participate in activities, conferences and challenges." I'm very glad to still be considered a "young person".

Read the rest on the GAM blog.

Apr 12, 2010

Star of GAM Enters Spotlights

Global Astronomy Month had to have its own VIP star endorsing the event. We went big and invited the best-known star of all time, the closest star to us in the entire Universe - the Sun!

April 11 is a big day for the Sun as it comes under the spotlight during Sun Day! The day also marks the beginning of an entire week dedicated to our star - Solar Week. Read more.

Mar 27, 2010

Dark Skies during Earth Hour in Bucharest

Astroclub Bucharest will take out a telescope to show people deep sky objects tonight, during Earth Hour, making people aware of the consequences of light pollution. Together with WWF, Sistem band and jugglers :) we will be in Izvor park! See you there!

And if you're somewhere else, don't forget to turn off the lights between 20:30 and 21:30.

More about light pollution and the campaign of Astroclub Bucharest at "You have the right to night!".

Mar 19, 2010

@ all_astronomy_enthusiasts

Remote observing is definitely the latest thing! Today, technology and the Internet enable us to have access to powerful telescopes by clicking a mouse. No cold endurance event, no instrument preparation, no traveling away from light pollution, just sitting comfortably in a warm room and -- through simple technology connected to the Internet you can have access to enormous telescopes in dark areas. Pretty amazing!

Some of you may think that this takes away the enthusiasm and excitement of observing in the field or the possibility of learning so many things by using your own telescope and an atlas. We agree. This is why we have prepared for you the kind of observations that are rare to get!

How many times you haven’t dreamed of taking part in a Messier Marathon, for example? Maybe you even did, but it certainly wasn’t easy to find all the objects in one night. For those of you curious to see how a Messier Marathon works, or for you more experienced observers who just want to sit back and enjoy the ride, GAM brings you the Online Messier Marathon on April 5. Stay tuned on the event’s Facebook page and register for the marathon here.

Exploring planets in other solar systems is a difficult task for even the largest telescopes. During GAM, in a remote observing program called “Is There Anybody There?”, you will be able to observe one of the known 450 exoplanets known so far as it passes in front of its sun as the star’s light dims. You can share the excitement of the event with other enthusiasts on April 7. Facebook friends are welcomed to join. For event registration, you can go here.

Asteroid hunting is the third adventure we invite you to take part in, in a challenge where you compete with the other asteroid hunters. As you probably already know, finding an asteroid gives you the incredible opportunity to name it. “Write your name in the sky” is a not-to-miss. The hunt starts on April 15, at 21:30 Universal Time. Register and check the competition!

For those curious about local neighborhoods we suggest a journey “Across the Solar System”. You’ll travel with your friends to planets, asteroids and comets. We set off on April 22, so make sure you pack everything by then. Free tickets are available.

However, if you have a secret destination you want to explore through our telescopes, you can register here or on Facebook for personal observations that bring “The Universe to your Command!” Only 5 lucky people from each country will have this chance, so hurry!

This being said, fast connection @all astronomy enthusiasts out there and clear skies @GAM Remote Programs Team!

See you online!

Mar 13, 2010

Just three more weeks until Global Astronomy Month kicks off. Are your scopes ready to star party?

If you’re still unsure about what to do this time, we have ten super programs to inspire you!

How cool would it be if you could chat with some of the Living Legends of astronomy out there? Way cool.
We thought the same, and there you have Living Legends Series, an online program that connects you with some of the most fascinating people in astronomy. Stay in touch to see who will be the first!

From worldwide know astronomers we move to unknown Earth-like planets. There are 450 planets discovered outside our Solar System, and you will have the chance to observe one during our remote event “Is There Anybody Out There?

Talking about planets that revolve around similar Suns, we cannot leave our own star aside. April, 11 is SunDay, so make sure you’re out there watching it. The more we schedule a meeting with it, the more chances it will finally prepare some spots or solar turbulence for us :)

If the Sun has deprived us of its spots for quite a while now, Saturn turned its rings edge-on, making them almost invisible during the last months. We loved the sight, but it’s time Saturn shows its entire beauty again. From 12 to 16 April we have the go for Saturn Watch, five days which end with a Beauty Without Borders event dedicated to the Lord of the Rings.

If rings are Saturn’s personal signature, what if you could Write Your Name in the Sky? All it takes is to discover an asteroid, so make sure you join our remote event where we hunt for these mysterious travelers!

But you don’t have to be an asteroid to be mysterious. Our close neighbor, the Moon, still hides its dark face from us. However, the one that we do see never stops to fascinate us. So get your scopes out there between 17 and 23 April for Lunar Week!

Oh, you don’t have a scope yet? Not to worry. Your eyes will be enough equipment to assist to one of the most impressive shows of the Universe – meteor showers! Dress warmly and scan the sky for the beautiful Lyrids between 21 and 22 April.

Make sure you get out of town though. Light pollution will surely prevent you from seeing this show right from your home. We know, it’s rather annoying - going miles away to enjoy the sky above, when we all, astronomers or not, should have the right to a starry night. If you share our view, join us in claiming “One Star at the Time” and pledge to preserve and protect the patch of sky above your home or work place.

Having done all this, we sure deserve a party, a Global Star Party. 24 of April is the date to remember. We will all join together to admire the stars as One People under One Sky!

Mar 4, 2010

Astroclub Bucharest wins Best Plan B category at the Galilean Nights Awards!

Does the title sound as incredible to you as it sounds to me?

Our "Galilean Night with hot tea and a journey to Jupiter" won an award from The International Year of Astronomy 2009 organisers! You can read the entire news on the IYA2009 website. The event was organised in collaboration with the Astronomical Observatory "Amiral Vasile Urseanu" from Bucharest!
Congratulations to our astronomy colleagues from SARM who also won an award for Outstanding Galilean Nights Event! Well done, Romania!

Bellow here, is the event report that tells our story.

After the tremendous success we had with 100 Hours of Astronomy, we were anxiously waiting for the Galilean Nights to repeat the story. We planned four nights of telescope viewing in the University Square, right in the center of Bucharest. But just a few days before the event the weather forecast was not on our side. Rain did not seem to stop pouring down and members from our club, completely discouraged, gave up the idea and planned other things. It seemed that Galilean Nights were just not going to happen for us.

On Tuesday night, October 20, at our weekly meeting at the astronomy club, four determined and enthusiastic people met and thought: we cannot just leave Galilean Nights pass us by. We need a plan B! We had only 2 days before the event started, no organizing team left, no room rented, no public announcements made and a terribly rainy weather. What could be done under these circumstances? And then suddenly, it came to us: what if we invited people to spend their rainy evening at the Astronomical Observatory and warm up with a cup of hot tea and inspiring experiences about the universe?

And so, “The Galilean Night with hot tea and a journey to Jupiter” was born. The following morning, we sent out a press release announcing the event. After just half an hour we had the first radio interview. A couple of hours later, the news was spreading on the internet. We than received a phone call from the national TV station that wanted us in the studio at the 19:00 o’clock news edition – the prime time for news! Other three radio stations took us interviews before the day ended. But this was not all!

Thursday, we received another two phone calls from two major TV news stations that wanted to join us for a live transmission. We said yes, of course! Last, but not least, the Galilean Nights Blog ( honored us with a funny post about our event. Thursday was also the day for administrative tasks, when we bought 250 tea bags, sugar, cups and cookies.

And then, the Galilean night arrived. Encouraged by our enthusiasm several club members joined to help. We had announced presentations every hour in the interval 20:00-24:00. It was 19:30 and people were already queuing in front of the Observatory. What followed next was a night to remember. A queue that spread all along the sidewalk, hundreds of tea cups prepared at the speed of light every time a new session began, talks about Galileo Galilee, a journey to Jupiter with the help of an astronomy program and even…telescope viewing for a few lucky people who had for a short time clear skies during their session! At 01:00, people were still waiting to enter and, therefore, we made one more presentation and finished all tea bags!

During 6 hours, we had 300 visitors, 250 tea cups prepared and 6 presentations made. The event was broadcast by 3 major TV stations, 4 radio stations and 9 websites, among which: two of the most visited women websites (with aprox. 60.000 and 12.000 visitors per day), three of the most popular news websites (with aprox. 80.000, 180.000 and 290.000 visitors per day). Counting only these websites, we had 622.000 people reached through PR efforts. The total number of people reached through radio and TV is, however, much bigger and uncountable like it is the word of mouth generated by those who left the presentations with a bit more knowledge on astronomy, but still wondering about the Universe.

In short, four determined and passion driven people took what seemed to be a total failure due to unfavorable weather conditions and transformed it into a highly promoted event and a fantastic experience for some 300 people that left the Observatory that night with the bug to Discover the Universe!

Feb 19, 2010

Space Applications for Disaster Relief: The Haiti Earthquake Brief

Space-based applications and services are extremely important for emergency preparedness and recovery efforts. International organisations, space agencies, universities, and the people they serve have much interest in working together to bring space-based technology innovations to the service of communities that were, are or will inevitably be affected by disasters.

Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the SGAC SPIDER Group has produced a document that reviews and emphasizes these benefits of space-based applications in disaster management.

You can access the full paper or read the detailed news on SGAC website.

Feb 16, 2010

The Public Face of Space

Whether you are referring to public...relations or public....awareness, the next ISU symposium is bound to address these issues at its fourteenth edition, taking place in Strasbourg, France, between 16 and 18 February.

The symposium aims to set a new meaning to education efforts - going beyond attracting young people into studying science to developping the full human potential of the broader population. Add public outreach and managing expectations together with work force development and capacity building and you can catch a glimpse of the fabulous discussions taking place these days in Strasbourg. Check the full program!

Feb 1, 2010

Desenul Astronomic/ Astronomic Drawings

On Saturday, January 30, the Romanian Amateur Astronomers Conference took place in Bucharest. Organised by Astroclubul Bucuresti it aimed to gather amateur astronomers to present their scientific results and observations during IYA2009.

For a group of people living in the light-polluted Bucharest, a quite impressive number of presentations were submitted. We had three major categories: scientific observations, telescope manufacture and astrophotography & drawings, all of which included topics such as: photometry, PHEMU, Lunar oculatations, variable stars and observations on Epsilon Aurigae, solar observations, video observations at meteor showers, manufacture of telescopes, the briefcase mount (!), the micromount, automatic telescopes, astrophotgraphy and astrophotography with DSLR, astronomic drawings.

The last one was done by me and you can see bellow here an attempt to make amateur astronomers turn back to drawings alonside with astrophotography! The presentation is in Romanian, but my very modest drawings are universal language :P

Jan 27, 2010

Give Mars a warm welcome in the neighbourhood!

Today, January 27th, Mars is at its closest distance from Earth, which in astronomical terms means no less than 99.333.072 km! You can see the Red Planet with the naked eye if you look in the Cancer constellation.

Every 2 years and 6 months, Mars comes at its closest distance to Earth, from where one can see it in the opposite direction of the Sun. This astronomical event is called opposition of a planet. See bellow for the evolution of the way Mars is seen as it approaches Earth.

For more information in Romanian language you can also visit the website of the Astronomical Observatory in Bucharest.

Several countries in the world have joined an international project that aims to show to the people the beauty of the Red Planet. Astronomers Without Borders and Sidewalk Astronomers invite you to say "Hello, Red Planet!"

Among the countries that are participating is Romania with an event organised at Targoviste by SARM. Check the enire country list to see if you are lucky to wonder at the beauty of Mars!