After two years of online activities, the Las Campanas Observatory celebrated Astronomy Day with in-person events in La Serena and Vallenar. To celebrate this science, activities are held throughout the country, focusing on contingent issues such as light pollution.
The activities were aimed at students and the community in general and organized in conjunction with the Giant Magellan Telescope and the EcoScience Foundation, in collaboration with the Universidad Central, the inclusive astronomy group Dedoscopio and the Municipality of Vallenar.
The activities consisted of a public exhibition with three stations. The first one was held inside the Mobile Laboratory “Conciencia Astronomía”, known as LabMóvil, and was based on wave, light and optics experiments. The other stations were an inclusive exhibit for the visually impaired, consisting of the traveling backpack “Universe with All Senses”, created by the Planetarium of Medellin (Colombia) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which teaches about planets and scales in the Solar System, along with 3D printed replicas of the Magellan telescopes of the Las Campanas Observatory and tactile models representing light pollution created by Dedoscopio. Finally, there was solar observation with telescopes.
The event in La Serena took place at the Las Campanas Observatory in La Serena, between 10:00 and 19:00 hours, while in Vallenar the exhibition was installed at the Environmental Technology Center of the Municipality of Vallenar, between 10:00 and 18:00 hours. On both occasions, around 300 people participated.
For Leopoldo Infante, director of the Las Campanas Observatory, there is an extraordinary public interest in astronomy. “The message Chile: world capital of astronomy has managed to reach the public with force. This should be celebrated, and that is what has been happening.”
“Bringing astronomy directly to children and the general public is one of the observatory’s important goals. The mobile laboratory will help us enormously with this goal. We start in La Serena and Vallenar with this activity, and then we will visit smaller towns in the third and fourth regions”, emphasizes the astrophysicist.
At the launching of the activity in Vallenar, the first communal authority valued this experience that has been possible thanks to this joint work with the Las Campanas observatory. “We are celebrating Astronomy Day and what better celebration than sharing with the technical teams that work in this area at the Las Campanas observatory and other sectors with our teams, and what better than with children in this case from the Hermanos Carrera school, who are here right now and with great joy we can share this mobile laboratory that this entity has made available to our community to celebrate Astronomy Day, knowing in greater detail what the planets are, what we look at in the sky, and a series of laboratory experiences”, said Mayor Flores.
David Osip, deputy director of the Las Campanas observatory, highlighted the focus on inclusion that they have wanted to give to this traveling exhibition. “We are focusing not only on discovering the Universe with our eyes, if you can use other senses, you can touch, you can listen, there are several ways to discover the Universe that are more inclusive.”
“Excellent initiative, very motivating. My youngest son wants to study Physics and Astronomy. He asked several questions and loved seeing the sun (he noticed 3 black spots) and the moon (a part of it)”, indicates Eduardo Avalos, who just with his son participated in the activity in Vallenar.
Other Astronomy Day activities
As a way of democratizing scientific knowledge, on March 23, in the context of the week of Astronomy Day, the Las Campanas Observatory launched the Easy Reading version of its website. The launch included the participation of the organization Leaders 100 Capacities, in charge of validating the contents of the site.
Easy Reading is a methodology designed to write or adapt and validate a text in an accessible way, so that people with comprehension difficulties can understand what they read. These people include those with intellectual disabilities and other developmental disorders, recent immigrants who are not native Spanish speakers, the elderly, among others.
In addition, LCO participated in the annual AstroDay Chile outreach program, an event organized by NOIRLab, held online for the second consecutive year. Represented by LCO’s communications and outreach manager, Carol Rojas, the observatory was part of the panel on the contributions of the main scientific observatories in Chile. This event can be viewed at this link: https://youtu.be/YyyDn_Q76hs
The observatory was also part of the launching of the Virtual Museum of Time, an educational web platform that rescues the heritage and legacy of the Scottish immigrant Juan Mouat, who installed in 1843 the first astronomical observatory of the country in the port of Valparaíso (https://museovirtualdeltiempo.cl)