Communicating Astronomy with the Public
Earlier this month I was at what is probably the most entertaining conference I have yet attended. I spent the week in Cape Town, South Africa, with a couple of hundred other astronomers and astronomy educators at the Communicating Astronomy with the Public meeting, organised by the International Astronomical Union's Commission 55. One of many IAU commissions, C55 is all about communicating astronomy with the public and has close links with Commission 46, Astronomy Education and Development.
The programme included talks on a wide variety of projects and reports on International Year of Astronomy events from many, many different countries; in all, there were around 45 countries represented at the meeting. The numbers are impressive. Even though only 35% of the final reports on IYA activities have been received by the secretariat, the estimate of the number of people reached though the various activities currently stands at 100 million.
I was there along with two colleagues from ICRAR who both spoke on astronomy and culture. Steven Tingay gave a talk on the Ilgarijiri project, while John Goldsmith described his PhD research on Indigenous astronomical knowledge. There was a lot of interest in the artwork that we took, part of the Ilgarijiri exhibition, which was displayed at the back of the lecture room.
I presented a poster on outreach efforts in the Mid West region of Western Australia, the region which contains the Australian candidate site for the Square Kilometre Array, but I also gave a talk on the Jodcast. My closing comment was something along the lines of "I have my field recorder with me, so if I start chasing you down the corridor with my microphone, please don't run away!"
By the end of the week I'd managed to catch ten people for short interviews, enough for about a half hour audio package. I talked to George Miley (one of the IAU's vice-presidents) about C55 and the IAU's strategic plan, Kevin Govender (an astronomer at the SAAO and the main organiser of the CAP2010 meeting), Carolina Odman (Universe Awareness coordinator) and Pamela Gay (Astronomy Cast) about their highlights of CAP2010, Prospery Simpemba from Zambia about the Astronomers Without Borders project, Avivah Yamani abour IYA in Indonesia, Saevar Bragason about IYA in Iceland, Mponda Malozo about IYA in Tanzania, Cameron Hummels about the IYA and doing guerrilla astronomy in New York, and the amazing Pedro Russo, global IYA coordinator and editor of the CAP Journal, about the global IYA results. Listen out for it on the Jodcast at some point!
It wasn't all talks. On Thursday we had a free afternoon, and the conference delegates dispersed around Cape Town and the nearby national park. I jumped in the SAAO minibus with Carolina, Saevar, Marek, Pedro and several others, and Kevin took us on a tour. We paddled in the ocean at Fish Hoek, watched the penguins at Boulders Beach, walked to the old lighthouse at Cape Point, watched sunset from Chapman's Peak Drive, and had fish and chips in Hout Bay. It was quite a day!
The view from Cape Point CREDIT: Megan
I left the meeting with many new friends and contacts, and lots of project ideas. If only there were more days in the week! The next CAP meeting will be somewhere in Asia in September/October 2011. If you've got something to contribute, make sure it's in your diary.