LCO participates in important world conference on astronomy outreach

“Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) is the world’s largest conference on astronomy communication and its ninth version was held September 12-16, 2022 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) of the Carnegie Institution for Science participated in it, presenting the work in inclusive astronomy that has been developed in the last two years.

This conference is organized by the International Astronomical Union, and is attended by professionals in science communication, informal education, planetariums and science centers, as well as professional astronomers, amateurs, and journalists.

LCO was represented by astronomers Carol Rojas, in charge of Communications and Outreach, and Carla Fuentes, telescope operator. Both have conducted workshops for visually impaired people in the third and fourth regions of Chile, both in person and online. These workshops, grouped under the name “Tactile Journey with LCO ” were initiated thanks to a collaboration with the inclusive astronomy group Dedoscopio, which was created in 2018 by Carla Fuentes and Pamela Paredes.

Carol Rojas presenting LCO's inclusive astronomy work.

Carol Rojas presenting LCO’s inclusive astronomy work.

On the other hand, Carol Rojas has led the creation of a web in easy reading of the observatory, available at the link, which explains the various contents of the traditional web but in an accessible way, so that people with comprehension difficulties can understand what they read. Among these people are those with intellectual disabilities and other developmental disorders, recent immigrants who are not native Spanish speakers, late incorporation to reading, poor schooling, children who are beginning to read, the elderly, and, finally, anyone who is interested in reading this type of text.

Both works were presented at the conference. The first, by means of a poster presented by Fuentes, and the second, by means of a talk in the panel on inclusive practices in astronomical popularization. 

“All living things marvel at the night sky, and ask questions. The Carnegie Institution for Science, through Las Campanas Observatory, is actively working to promote science, and in particular astronomy, as broadly and inclusively as possible and to everyone. We want to reach not only the educated public but also the general public. In particular, we strive to be creative and inclusive; we give priority to bringing science to people with disabilities who, in general, are discriminated against and left without access to the beautiful world that surrounds them”, emphasizes Leopoldo Infante, Director of Las Campanas Observatory.

Carla Fuentes at the poster session.

The creation of the easy-to-read website made LCO the first observatory in Chile, and perhaps in the world, to have this type of content.

“This website is the result of an arduous process of content adaptation and validation, carried out by people with intellectual disabilities who verify that the texts are indeed understood by the public we want to reach, one that historically is left out of the outreach and education activities that are commonly carried out. This is something that we at LCO have set out to change,” says Carol Rojas.

In addition to these activities, LCO has focused on people with diverse disabilities, adding interpretation in Chilean language in its talks and outreach series, incorporating tactile material in its workshops and using sonification of images and astronomical phenomena, such as the inclusive transmission of the solar eclipse of 2021. On the other hand, since 2021 it has been part of the Chilean group of inclusive astronomy, which brings together institutions concerned with democratizing this type of knowledge. 

The 2022 version of the CAP conference was held for the first time in a hybrid form. The organizers are currently looking for a location for the 2023 version.

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