Big Astronomy Hosts Live Talk and Q&A with Astronaut Dr. Sian Proctor

Film Big Astronomy: People, Places, Discoveries Now Available for Streaming. 

On Friday, February 4 at 7:00pm EST, join astronaut, geoscientist, explorer and space artist Dr. Sian Proctor for a live talk and Q&A hosted by Big Astronomy, streamable online for free and presented at planetariums across the world. During the talk, Dr. Proctor will share highlights from her fascinating career, including serving as the mission pilot for the first-of-its-kind Inspiration4 three-day mission in Earth orbit, during which she became the first African American woman to pilot a spacecraft. Viewers will have the opportunity to ask Dr. Proctor questions and hear stories from her incredible adventure.

The free event will be broadcast to Facebook Live and viewable via Zoom Webinar. Register for the online event here.

Big Astronomy: People, Places, Discoveries Planetarium Film Released in HD

Big Astronomy is a multifaceted research and outreach project supported by several partners and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). It includes the award-winning planetarium show Big Astronomy: People, Places, Discoveries, which highlights the diverse people who enable discoveries at world-class observatories in Chile. The film is now available digitally in HD to make it accessible to STEM educators and the general public who may not live near a planetarium or are unable to visit their local planetarium due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Big Astronomy planetarium show has been received by 130 planetariums around the world, with a total annual attendance of nearly 3.8 million people. The planetarium show has won two film awards, including the 2020 “Best Astronomy Education” Award at the Dome Under Fulldome Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and the 2021 Dome Fest West “Best Science Film” award in Los Angeles. In addition, the Big Astronomy project received a 2021 NSF STEM for All Video Showcase Public Choice Award.

The film transports viewers to Chile where the dark sky and dry weather, and remote setting creates ideal conditions for observing the universe. It also takes audiences behind the scenes of Chilean observatories that are funded by the NSF, and looks at the diverse people and careers it takes to make big science possible today.

Beyond the fascinating places and people involved in astronomical research, the show includes the fruits of the research itself. “We are excited by the opportunity this project presents to both formal and informal STEM educators,” explains Tim Spuck, AUI Director of Education and Public Engagement and Principal Investigator for Big Astronomy. “Astronomy excites learners of all ages. We can use the power of astronomy to help individuals understand that they can be a part of amazing science and discoveries without necessarily becoming a PhD astronomer. We want every person seeing the film to be able to connect the people they see to someone they know or someone they themselves can one day become.”

“The show’s story is told in the voices of the talented individuals who work in these incredible locations,” says Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization at the California Academy of Sciences. “We hope that educators can leverage a film that weaves together the brilliant minds, unique locale, and cutting-edge discoveries that make Chile such an important place for observational astronomy.”

“We are excited to bring these direct connections to STEM professionals, students and families around the world. It is our goal to help people understand the wide variety of STEM careers available,” says Big Astronomy’s Live Events Coordinator, Renae Kerrigan.

With support from NSF-Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, a number of leading educational institutions are partnering to complete the $2 million Big Astronomy research project, including: Associated Universities Inc. (AUI); the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University; the California Academy of Sciences; Astronomical Society of the Pacific; Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA); Peoria Riverfront Museum; Ward Beecher Planetarium at YSU; NSF’s NOIRLab including Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and the international Gemini Observatory; Vera C. Rubin Observatory construction project; and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

Visit bigastronomy.org to download the film and education resources in English or Spanish, and participate in ongoing live events featuring those working at leading observatories.

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