RAS200 – astronomy and geophysics reach out to new communities

RAS200 – astronomy and geophysics reach out to new communities

Author: Sheila Kanani – Royal Astronomical Society, United Kingdom


  • Sue Bowler – Royal Astronomical Society, United Kingdom
  • Liz Jeavans – Jenesys Associates Ltd, United Kingdom
  • Steve Miller – UCL, United Kingdom

2020 sees the Royal Astronomical Society – the oldest learned society covering astronomy and geophysics in the world – celebrate its 200th anniversary. In the run up to 2020, the RAS initiated an outreach and engagement scheme aimed at bringing the society’s sciences to new audiences, those who might not normally attend public lectures, planetarium shows or even star-gazing evenings. Committing £1 million to the project, the RAS deliberately sought out new partners who would take it out of its comfort zone with a bottom-up funding scheme making up to £100k available for five-year projects. Competition for the funding was fierce with just 12 projects funded out of more than 150 applications.

Starting in 2015, the Prince’s Trust has used astronomy to inspire young people who have had some of the hardest starts in life. Carers who hardly ever get a break from their duties are funded to spend weekends learning about the stars on the Scottish island of Coll. A new planetarium show using Holst’s classic “Planet Suite” and modern adaptations brings the heavens in Full-dome 360 animation to audiences via mobile planetaria. New courses for adults who missed out on their education first time round have been developed. And Welsh cultural festivals now resonate to poetry, dance and music inspired by astronomy.

Starting two years later, geophysics is being used to engage football crowds with science, and prisoners are being helped maintain links with their families through astronomy. In Cornwall, Galway and South Africa, artworks, trails and exhibitions are taking astronomy out to local people. And young girls and women in the Girl Guides have new badges to work for. All of these projects, too, are being adapted to suit people on the autistic spectrum. All projects and the scheme as a whole are being evaluated by external consultants, and the evaluation work carried out so far will be discussed in the conclusion of this talk.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation