This week’s interview is with Federica Bianco.
At an early hour on Friday November 25, 2011 there was a solar eclipse only visible in the Southern Hemisphere. If you had been at the South Pole, you would have seen about 80% of the Sun was covered by the Moon. From Cape Town, South Africa, the event lasted only for about an hour and the maximum coverage was only 10% of the Sun's diameter. Despite the small size, duration and the early hours of the eclipse, it was used as an important occasion to create awareness among the general population in Cape Town.
The newest member of the LCOGT education team, Abiy Tekola, took to the streets of Cape Town together with the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) education team. They managed to draw lots of public attention to the event by being at the busiest location of the city where they encountered people of diverse ages and walks of life, running to catch taxis and trains to start their day.
During this one hour event, between 250-300 people got the chance to look at the partial eclipse with the eclipse glasses provided to them (remember never look at the Sun with the naked eye, even during an eclipse). Even if most people are running to start their day, they were willing to stand for a moment to watch the event. They were taken by surprise to witness this interesting natural phenomenon and the level of excitement was indeed beyond expected. Most people got the chance to see an eclipse for the first time and asked interesting questions, ranging what is happening during an eclipse to when the next one is going to happen. The education team at the location did an excellent job both in facilitating the viewing and engaging the public in science. There was also media presence at the event and programes about the event were aired on the national TV and local radio programs.
It was found that taking the event to the public instead of bringing the public to the event was an efficient way of reaching out to people who would not normally interrupt their busy daily life routines for science.
Observing with BOS one of our astronomy team, BJ Fulton, has compiled a video of the asteroid 2005 YU55 as when it was recently near the Earth on its travel around the Solar System. The video is not in real time and represents many hours of observations, compiled into less than 30 seconds.
As a part of our education and outreach effort at LCOGT, and to give you a chance to get to know our staff a little better, we are starting a new interviews project. Every couple of weeks I will be interviewing a member of LCOGT's staff. We have wonderful people with a wide range of skills and from a variety of backgrounds. For young readers thinking about careers, hopefully this will be a way to gain insight into the daily lives of professionals working in a variety of jobs. For others, I hope this will be a nice way to get more insight into the lives and careers of the multi-talented staff at LCOGT.
My first interview was with Edward Gomez.
Jessica Barton: What is your job title?
Edward Gomez: Education Director.
JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?
EG: I head up the public engagement team of LCOGT. The education team is small but we cover a wide range of skills, from an ex-school teacher to professional astronomers. Our aim is to engage any member of the public, with an interest in astronomy or science in general, and involve them in exciting scientific investigations and activities. I also am the editor of the company website and I look after scheduling the fixed time blocks for our 2-meter telescopes.
JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.
EG: I have a masters degree and PhD in astrophysics and used to research hydrodynamical simulations of stellar winds.
JB: What led you to the career/job you are doing now?
EG: I really liked doing research but was working in a very niche field. I had always enjoyed running schools workshops and engaging with the public. This role is perfect for me because it allows me to involve the public in doing scientific research.
JB: What is a typical day at work like?
EG: Unlike the majority of LCOGT I am based in UK, so I start off each day catching up on a large volume of emails. From that point every day is different. The past couple of months I've spent most of my time working on Agent Exoplanet. I've been upgrading the company website to give it a new look. I am also discussing how we can collaborate with other groups of astronomers on citizen science projects using the LCOGT network.
JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?
EG: Start off by doing public talks and schools workshops. It gives you great experience and will help you work out if its right for you.
JB: Thanks Edward!
A while back I wrote about our efforts to ensure that every observation taken by a public user of our telescope network has a permanent web presence. As well as providing a page for each observation with relevant information, it allowed people to browse through the tens of thousands of observations by user and by telescope. Today, along with the update to our main site, we're providing some extra ways to browse and search the public observations.
You may have noticed that our website has been pretty quiet over October and early November. This is because we have been preparing for a relaunch. The previous incarnation of the site had stood us in good stead for the past ~5 years but it was time for a change. We had to upgrade the Content Management System to the latest version because our previous version was so old it was no longer supported. We saw the port to Drupal 7 to be a good opportunity to have a spring clean, tidying up some parts of the site which were not working and bring other parts of the site more up to date.
Many pages have "Feature boxes" which highlight projects, apps and things we are proud of. You will see these dotted around the site, so have a look!
We have totally rewritten the Observations app to include even more features. You will soon see a blog post by Stuart, which illuminates these features.
We have made sure that all of the old links into our website still work. Even if the content has moved you should be redirected to the correct place. More features will appear over the coming months, so keep watching the site as it evolves. We hope you enjoy our new look!