Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 – 23 September 2022
Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 September – 23 September 2022
Public engagement via live online astronomy events: Sharing experiences, looking ahead


Events in the sky provide powerful outreach and engagement opportunities.

In recent years (particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic) many professional and amateur astronomy groups have begun (or intensified) live streaming events such as eclipses and conjunctions. While many of these efforts were initially aiming to provide sky watching and science outreach opportunities during the confinement conditions imposed by the pandemic, which hampered in-person visits to observatories, in the long term they offer an opportunity to broaden access to astronomical observations beyond the demographic groups that have been traditionally engaged in these activities.

The first aim of this session is for practitioners to share some of the lessons learned from these activities.

The second aim is to trigger a wider discussion about how the astronomy community can collaborate and capitalize on future astronomical events. (We are hoping this discussion will continue long after the conference has finished!)

We invite the astronomy outreach community to submit abstracts for talks and posters to be presented at the conference. We also envision a live-streamed event (exact timing TBD) to keep the conversation going, engaging all those members of the community who could not attend the conference in person.

Potential areas for presentation and discussion include — but are not limited to — the following topics.

- Appropriate kinds of astronomical events (eg, conjunctions)

- Appropriate kinds of platforms (eg, for live streaming)

- Ways to disseminate information (eg, how to engage the desired audience, how to get and keep followers)

- Doing actual science around unpredictable events (eg, comet observations)

- How to keep momentum going through a programme (eg, after the initial novelty)

- Linking to follow-up science activities and opportunities (eg remote observing)
- Linking online to offline (eg, balancing expectations from watching a live stream, to looking through an actual telescope)

- Smoothing the learning curve (eg, solving problems)

- Dealing with language issues (eg, engaging audiences that speak a different language, international collaborations on key events)

- Measuring impact (eg, follow-up & feedback)
- Coordination within the outreach community - networking for events
- Efforts to broaden access to star-gazing to more marginalised groups

Convener: Graham Jones | Co-conveners: Claudia Mignone, Helen Usher
| Mon, 19 Sep, 17:30–18:30 (CEST)|Room Andalucia 3
| Attendance Mon, 19 Sep, 18:45–20:15 (CEST) | Display Mon, 19 Sep, 08:30–Wed, 21 Sep, 11:00|Poster area Level 2

Session assets

Discussion on Slack

Orals: Mon, 19 Sep | Room Andalucia 3

Chairperson: Graham Jones
Federica Duras, Giulia Mantovani, Claudia Mignone, Livia Giacomini, Sandro Bardelli, Federico Di Giacomo, and Gianluigi Filippelli

Il cielo in salotto” (in English, “The sky in your living room”) is a format for live streaming events of astronomical phenomena devised in 2020 by EduINAF (the official online magazine for education and public outreach of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, INAF), with the aim of engaging the general public and students with astronomy and space science remotely in the various waves and isolation periods of the pandemic. 

Originally designed to broadcast live telescope observations from the INAF network of observatories, the format evolved in the last year to include 3D models of celestial objects and virtual tours of the INAF institutes, museum and observatories. These events are enriched with live interviews and discussion with INAF researchers and supported by large-scale public engagement campaigns conducted together with space enthusiasts, amateur astronomy associations and other partners. On the occasion of a partial solar eclipse, we also involved telescopes from other European countries (that were better located to observe the event) in partnership with Europlanet.

In this talk, we will present some of the technical and logistical solutions we adopted for the broadcast. Moreover, we will look in detail at the results of a focus group conducted on the latest event (the “SuperMoon” of 13 July 2021) of this format, comparing with results from the very first live event (during the “SuperMoon” of 26 May 2021) and present lessons learnt from two years of experience, that could be of interest to colleagues organising similar events in other countries.

How to cite: Duras, F., Mantovani, G., Mignone, C., Giacomini, L., Bardelli, S., Di Giacomo, F., and Filippelli, G.: Il cielo in salotto: lessons learnt from livestreaming astronomical events in Italy, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-907,, 2022.

Miguel Pérez-Ayúcar, Sandra Benitez Herrera, David Gonzalez, and Joe Zender

CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) is an educational ESA (European Space Agency) initiative whose main objective is to engage school students with the wonders of astronomy and, more generally, science and technology. Through CESAR, students (supported by their teachers) have access to telescopes, tools, and the expertise of ESA scientists to make real astronomical observations, collect scientific data and analyze the results, applying the same methodology used in real life by professional scientists.

As part of CESAR educational activities, the project has been covering since 2012 special astronomical events related to space objects transits (Venus transit 2012, live Sun transmissions, Total Solar Eclipses 2017 and 2019, Mercury Transit 2016, and ISS transits). Solar transits are rare astronomical events of profound historical importance and with an enormous potential to engage nowadays students and general public into Planetary Sciences and Space. Mercury transits occur only about every 13-14 times per century. Total solar eclipses occur around 18 months apart somewhere on Earth, but they reoccur only every 3-4 centuries on the same location. Although its historic scientific relevance (examples, to measure the distances in the solar system, to observe the solar corona) has diminished since humanity roams our solar system with robotic spacecrafts, transits remain a spectacular astronomical event that is used very effectively to engage general public and students to Science and Space in general.

The driving activity during these engaging educational and outreach events is a live interactive hangout, connecting students and general public around the globe (Europe, Chile, USA, …), with the remote observing teams and the scientists/engineers at ESAC (European Space Astronomy Center). Presentations and lectures by experts in the field are scheduled with live connections to the observing sites. Questions and answers sessions allow world-wide audience to interact with the scientists and engineers. Live images are acquired with CESAR instrumentation and broadcast live in streaming, and archived for offline access. CESAR has collaborated for these activities with multiple institutions: Spanish schools/universities, ESA Education and ESA Communications offices, worl-class observatories (Teide, Cerro Paranal, La Silla) and ESA projects (Venus Express, Bepicolombo and Solar Orbiter).

In this paper we explain how these public educational and outreach events are planned, created and executed, what activities they comprise, and the follow up activities expected for future events.

How to cite: Pérez-Ayúcar, M., Benitez Herrera, S., Gonzalez, D., and Zender, J.: The CESAR educational special events: live coverage of solar events for public engagement, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-49,, 2022.

Helen Usher and Scott Vaughan

During 2021 we started a project called Comet Chasers, to work with Primary schools in South Wales, bringing astronomy-related activities into the classroom to teach core skills.

During the period of the project (on 10 June 2021) there was a partial solar eclipse (around 22% in the area), so activities around that event were also included. 

Obviously, the ideal scenario was that students would be able to view the full duration of the eclipse using a range of safe/specialist equipment, making and logging their observations for analysis later.  Planned observations included using various filters (white light, CaK and Ha) to see different solar features; direct viewing through solar glasses; and indirect viewing through projection with Keplerian Sunspotters.

With a clear sky it would also be possible to use the Sunspotters for activities measuring the rotation of the Earth – with some nice maths involved.

BUT, Wales is not renowned for its good weather, particularly when something as great as a solar eclipse is happening!  So backup activities were planned.

The availability of live streams from across the eclipse path was a huge advantage, so it was planned to stream those into the classroom.  But just watching a solar eclipse develop over a few hours might not hold the attention of the 10-year-olds in the class, and it did not include much opportunity for learning either.  So a varied programme was developed, starting with some of the science of eclipses, with appropriate hands-on activities, then using the functionality in Stellarium Web to simulate the eclipse from any location, and to view at higher speed.  Students would simulate what would they be seeing if they were outside and the sky was clear.  In addition, they could simulate the view from the locations of the live streams – choosing a location, changing Stellarium settings, matching the simulation with what they were seeing on the live stream and investigating what would happen next/or had just happened.  It would also be a fun activity for them to simulate what maybe a relative would see from their location somewhere else….

The day before the eclipse was gloriously sunny, the day of the eclipse was…. cloudy.

But the event was still a success.  To quote a student asked about what was most interesting from the Comet Chasers project:  ’I found the solar eclipse most interesting when we were able to see it even though our luck was terrible because it was cloudy and rainy.’

We will present how the different activities worked in practice, more feedback from students and their teacher, and what we learnt that could be useful for other projects wishing to use mixed approaches for live events.



The Comet Chasers project was administered by Techniquest with initial funding from a Science and Technology Facilities Council SPARKS Award. Access to the telescope facilities in the Las Cumbres Observatory network is provided through the support of the Faulkes Telescope Project.

It is now delivered by a partnership of professional and amateur astronomers, the Open Uiniversity and Cardiff University, working closely with educators.

How to cite: Usher, H. and Vaughan, S.: Using Live Feeds in the Classroom: A case study from a partial solar eclipse in cloudy Wales, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-1240,, 2022.

Mert Acar and Alper Ateş

Introduction: ISTEK Belde Schools Science center consists of an astronomy museum, a planetarium and an observatory. The center is an extention of ISTEK Foundation dedicated to serving over 12million residents of Istanbul. Since it’s conception in 2015 over 100 000 visitors have been enjoyed the astronomy museum, wathced planetarium shows and observed the celestial objects through telescopes. In the first 5 years the center provided support for the local schools  and free public lectures. In the beginning of 2020 the strict quarantine regulations put the science centers activities on hold. This period saw a major change in the methods for engaging the public. The museum is photographed 360 degree lenses and carried into virtual medium. Online visits, lectures and planetarium shows took the place of classic museum activities when no physical visits were possible.

Method: In the past 20 years virtual tours became more and more sophisticated and popular by providing value visual information from the comfort of home. The technology used to photograph and stitch the images together enabled wide range of providers whether they are curators, educators or realtors to present their materiel online. By the covid outbreak ISTEK Science Center closed it’s doors for up to then an unknown amount of time. The displays and models are photographed and the entire museum inventory is carried into an online portal. The virtual visits were scheduled in the usual fashion; school groups connected a main computer operated by the curator and by using GoogleMeet the curator gave the tour in the virtual medium. This way much more people were able to hear the information and watch the planetarium shows.

Three main software are used in online presentations: StarryNight, Layered Earth, SanalVR software. StarryNight and Layered Earth are licenced presentation tools purchased in 2014; SanalVR is the virtual tour environment.

Figure 1- Images of virtual presentation and lecture.

Figure 2- Images of virtual museum tool SanalVR.

Reception: During the covid outbreak the intense pressure to satify the curriculum requirements put a hold on extracirrucular activities. The trafic was less than regular seasons yet some groups were able to enjoy online activities.

Figure 3- Number of visitors by years. 

Project Sustainiblity: The online museum provides an opportunity to reach out of city school groups. Beginning from 2022-2023 academic year the museum will reserve ¼ of time for school groups from all around the country. The online tools and experience acquired will be used in the coming years as long as the interest is alive.

How to cite: Acar, M. and Ateş, A.: A museum carried into virtual medium: ISTEK Belde Schools Science Center, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-798,, 2022.

Alessandro Marchini

In 2009 Elisa, a student of Physics and Advanced Technologies, could not access the dome of the University of Siena Astronomical Observatory because she is forced on a wheelchair by disability. “Advanced technologies” helped her, though. Between 2010 and 2012 the Observatory instrumentation was completely updated, but, most importantly, was fully automated, and made remotely controllable trough an Internet connection.

Since 2012 the Observatory is a laboratory where university and high-school students learn to study the starry sky and how to use the most recent instruments and technologies for astronomical image acquisition and analysis. Through this acquired knowledge, small projects focused on asteroids, variable stars and extrasolar planets research can be conducted by a wide range of students, academic organizations and enthusiast citizens.

In August 2015, Sara Marullo, a student in Physics and Advanced Technologies at the University of Siena who lived very far from the observatory, managed to conduct a series of observations, required by her internship, from her home. During an asteroid study session, in a case of perfect serendipity, she discovered a peculiar binary star. A few months later, that discovery of a new double star became the topic of her thesis and of an article published in the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers.