ODAA3 | Communicating Planetary Science in the 21st century


Communicating Planetary Science in the 21st century
Convener: Petr Broz | Co-conveners: Julie Nováková, Claudia Mignone, Luca Montabone, Federica Duras, Tobias Beuchert, Livia Giacomini, Anastasia Kokori, Anita Heward, Daniela de Paulis
| Tue, 10 Sep, 10:30–12:00 (CEST)|Room Saturn (Hörsaal B)
| Attendance Tue, 10 Sep, 14:30–16:00 (CEST) | Display Tue, 10 Sep, 08:30–19:00
Orals |
Tue, 10:30
Tue, 14:30
The needs and practice of science communication have shifted dramatically in the past ~decade, mainly due to the increased use of social media communication channels, accompanied with somewhat diminishing role of traditional sci-comm media approaches, and recently also generative AI. The COVID19 pandemic exposed a lot of weaknesses of current science communication, especially not addressing a wider “polluted information system”, helping people navigate it to reach reliable evidence-based information and engaging in participatory rather than only top-down communication.

While the same issues are less pressing from the point of view of planetary science, they are relevant for the community as well, since discoveries in the Earth’s history and climate, exoplanet science, astrobiology and other fields can end up heavily distorted in the current information ecosystem. Increased engagement with planetary science is important not only for its own sake and because of the passion for science that we share, but also for practical reasons such as raising the next generation of scientists, teaching the scientific method and inquiry, promoting overall critical thinking and helping people understand issues such as climate change and its impacts.

Rather than parceling the central question of science communication for the 21st century into individual topics such as sci-comm on social media, role of books in current sci-comm, AI art in sci-comm, risks and benefits of AI in sci-comm, citizen science involvement for sci-comm, limiting misinformation (especially in high-interest areas for the public, such as astrobiology or exoplanets) etc., we decided to invite you to share your activities, insights, experience and perspectives connecting to the underlying key question of how to use all these approaches in synergy, effectively share scientific discoveries and increase public interest and participation in science in the coming years.

Orals: Tue, 10 Sep | Room Saturn (Hörsaal B)

Chairpersons: Petr Broz, Claudia Mignone, Livia Giacomini
On-site presentation
Niamh Shaw, Fulvio Franchi, Mebatseyon Shawel, and Trhas Hadush Kahsay


There is a societal obligation to communicate planetary science activities to the general public. Many science and technology breakthroughs go unnoticed too frequently due to a lack of interest or awareness from the general public and an inability of scientists to engage broad audiences effectively.  In July 2023, science communicator Niamh Shaw accompanied field geophysicist Mebatseyon Shawel  on a six-day TA2023-funded field trip entitled 'Investigation of geomorphic features in Ntwetwe pans, Makgadikgadi Basin, Botswana, using Ground Penetrating Radar: implications for Martial surface landforms'. The expedition to the Makgadikgadi salt pan was led by Fulvio Franchii and team at BUIST, Botswana. The purpose of a science communicator as documentarian was to capture the story of one science team on a field trip to the Makgadikgadi Salt pans.   The overall objectives of the science communication study were to capture public interest in planetary science taking place in Botswana,  the Makgadikgadi Salt pans and space, through focussing on telling the real-time story of  a science analogue pre-, during- and post-mission, highlighting  the importance of Analogue sites, specifically the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, and the opportunity for non-Space audiences individuals to better appreciate planetary science. 


Using a number of media forms the story of this six day field trip was captured through video, photography, audio and personal testimony. The story of the field trip was presented to schools and family audiences in Brazil, Ireland, Canada and the USA.  The presentation capably captured the public’s interest by telling the human story of a science mission conducting a field trip, as evidenced by many follow-up questions. There was little or no knowledge of planetary science or analogues in the audience prior to the presentation.  Photographs of the mission were included in science publications post-field trip. The use of personal testimony as a method for informal science learning is an effective and original approach to highlight the importance of planetary science analogues to the general public. In simple terms, it was found that seeing a daily account of what scientists do, is immediate and accessible to viewers and readers. 


How to cite: Shaw, N., Franchi, F., Shawel, M., and Kahsay, T. H.: Field trip to at Makgadikgadi Salt Pans- a multimedia outreach project to capture the day-to-day human story of planetary science, to raise awareness of Europlanet and of the diverse research projects taking place at a planetary field analogue., Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-426, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-426, 2024.

On-site presentation
Anastasia Kokori

Astrotourism has been used in several locations as a model for business development. Astrotourism is an umbrella term including activities that focus on the night sky such as stargazing and astronomical phenomena such as aurora, eclipses, meteor shower etc.  Although astrotourism has been studied in the literature, many themes have not been covered yet. Usually astrotourism is connected to the protection of the night sky from light pollution. Astrotourism research is focused also on how astrotouristic activities can be combined with regional tourism. This presentation will focus on the aspect of using astrotouristic activities as a vehicle for outreach of astronomy and planetary science. Particularly, I will share practices, challenges and lessons learned from my experience on performing astrotouristic activities on the Greek island of Ikaria. Ikaria is a place where light pollution is almost absent. Additionally, the high altitudes of the mountainous areas in combination with the low level of industrialisation, give room for experimental efforts of astotourism. The power of the clear dark skies in combination with the pristine nature of Ikaria island lead to the creation of ideal conditions for experience-based activities which create to people unique feelings. 

How to cite: Kokori, A.: Astrotourism as a tool for astronomy and planetary science outreach - The case study of Ikaria island, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-485, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-485, 2024.

On-site presentation
Julie Nekola Novakova

The futures we imagine for ourselves could not vary more, especially with the many uncertainties of how new technologies are going to affect both everyday life and science specifically. Apocalyptic images of scorched Earth are prevalent in popular media, but utopian visions of peace, green cities and peaceful scientific exploration are on the rise as well. These are, so far, realms of science fiction, but at the same time also reflections of the public hopes and fears and also substrates from which arise new ideas, worries, opinions and interests. These narratives, by incorporating scientific concepts and ideas, possess the power to convey science to the public, whether accurately represented or heavily distorted. At a time when distinguishing between information and misinformation and understanding basic scientific methodology are increasingly vital to our society, exploring the role (positive as well as negative) and potential use of fictional narratives in the perception and understanding of science is not just an interesting research avenue, but a necessity.
Here, I will provide a historical as well as present-day perspective of the relationship between science fiction (SF) and space sciences, with particular emphasis on the usage of SF in science outreach and education. Ever since the advent of modern SF, practically hand in hand with the development of modern science, the genre of SF has served as a conduit between science and the wider public and helped shape public opinions about scientific and technological knowledge and possibilities, fostered interest in science and inspired future generations of scientists.
Space sciences in particular have been tackled by SF authors, be it early examples of space travel (after Verne’s and other relatively unrealistic visions came e.g. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the “father of rocket science”, but also an author who used his scientific ideas in utopian SF novels and short stories), envisaging space suits (first in 1898 in astronomer and writer Garrett P. Serviss’ novel Edison’s Conquest of Mars) or encountering life beyond Earth and discovering that we are not alone in the Universe (from earliest proto-SF by Kepler or de Fontenelle to a great number of modern works), and possibly communicating with extraterrestrial life (Carl Sagan’s Contact, exploring the issues of understanding without sharing a common life history and of epistemology, and many other works). These and more are "big questions" appealing to scientists, authors and the public alike, and they carry a substantial potential for outreach and educational efforts.  Even early authors such as H. G. Wells reflected the scientific knowledge and speculation in their work (such as thoughts about the possibility of a civilization on Mars at that time), popularized science and even argued for using more of the language and methods of popular fiction in what we would now call science outreach (Wells 1894).
However, despite this long tradition, there has been little systematic research into the relationship between SF and science and the specific ways SF can influence public perceptions of the field or even potentially sway (e.g. via shaping preconceptions in the minds of policy-makers) the direction of scientific research and technological innovation and to what extent SF is influenced by existing science of its day, newly explored by Puranen et al. (2024) for exoplanets. The educational and outreach potential of SF has been highlighted for the example of Mars fiction by Lockard and Goggin (2023) of Arizona State University.
I will briefly go through the history of SF and space sciences, existing educational and outreach efforts, and specific lessons learned from the SF anthologies of the European Astrobiology Institutes, out of which Life Beyond Us has been presented at the EPSC at its early planning stages (Novakova, 2021). Finally, I'm going to draw potential future directions from these key points, and provide tips for the use of SF in space sciences outreach.

Lockard, J., & Goggin, P. (2023). Teaching Mars Literature. Science & Education, 32(3), 821-844.
Novakova, J. N. (2021). Science Fiction for Planetary Science & Astrobiology Outreach: Life Beyond Us (No. EPSC2021-870). Copernicus Meetings.
Puranen, E. J., Finer, E., Helling, C., & Smith, V. A. (2024). Science fiction media representations of exoplanets: portrayals of changing astronomical discoveries. Journal of Science Communication, 23(1), A04.
Wells, H. G. (1894). Popularising science. The Observatory, Vol. 17, p. 291-294 (1894), 17, 291-294.

How to cite: Nekola Novakova, J.: Science Fiction for Space Sciences Outreach: Perspectives and Future Outlooks, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-966, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-966, 2024.

On-site presentation
Anita Heward, Lothar Kurtze, and Seda Özdemir-Fritz


In this talk, we will introduce FTP-Europlanet gUG, a not-for-profit organization established in Germany to support educational initiatives related to astronomy and planetary science. We will share experiences with setting up the company, describe current activities and give an update on future plans.


FTP-Europlanet is a “gemeinnützige Unternehmergesellschaft” (gUG), a non-profit entrepreneurial company founded with the aim of promoting scientific research and education, with a focus on astronomy.

The charitable aims of the company are to support:

  • The promotion of astronomy, planetary science and space exploration across Europe;
  • The promotion of the educational and outreach activities of the Faulkes Telescope Project and Europlanet;
  • Teacher training and continuous professional development for STEM educators;
  • Innovative delivery of STEM subjects in schools through astronomy and planetary sciences;
  • Public engagement and outreach in astronomy and planetary sciences;
  • Development of research and education projects using robotic astronomy;
  • Promotion of diverse, inclusive education in a sustainable way;
  • The provision of media services to the astronomy and space community and press office support;
  • Engagement with amateur astronomers.

Incorporated in December 2020, FTP-Europlanet gUG grew out of a collaboration between Dr. Lothar Kurtze, an astronomy educator, alongside the Faulkes Telescope Project, a programme of the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust Ltd that offers schools free access to telescopes in the Las Cumbres Observatory global telescope network, and Europlanet’s outreach programme.

Current activities

FTP-Europlanet gUG is currently involved in two Erasmus+ projects:

  • Clic-PoliT (Climate Action and Light Pollution Threat), led by Black Rock Observatory (Ireland), which runs from November 2021-October 2024. The project is working with upper primary and secondary schools to develop strategies to address energy consumption and light pollution and debate them with policymakers in a Students’ Parliament.
  • StAnD (StudenTs As plaNetary Defenders), led by INAF (Italy), which runs from September 2023 – August 2026). StAnD is an ambitious space science education project to involve school children in the search for asteroids and meteorites.

In addition, FTP-Europlanet gUG is currently involved in:

  • Teacher training and creation of teaching materials in support of the Faulkes Telescope Project;
  • Creation of materials for astronomy education and on-site technical support for organisations in Salzburg, including the VEGA Observatory, Haus der Natur and the Choros Concept GmbH;
  • Astronomy-themed workshops in collaboration with the shipping company, Oceanwide Expeditions;
  • Teacher training at the House of Astronomy in Heidelberg;
  • Development and testing of observation programs together with schools in the Weinheim, Lampertheim, Münster, Salzburg and at other locations in Germany and Austria;
  • Astronomical imagery for the project TerraVisaMusica.

The company also has a close relationship with the Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg.

Future Plans

Through participation in Erasmus+ programmes, FTP-Europlanet has established a number of close collaborations with organisations involved in providing astronomy education across Europe. Collaborations with institutions like NUCLIO in Portugal, Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Greece, INAF in Turin, Italy, and BCO in Ireland exemplify our commitment to broadening educational outreach. Currently, the company is actively part of consortia that have submitted three further Erasmus+ bids, and along with partners, will continue to seek funding, expand resources and opportunities to develop astronomy and planetary-related resources and training for educators across Europe.

In the long-term, FTP-Europlanet gUG will also support sustainability for outreach, education and media resources built up through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project (and previous EU investment) by providing a sustainable platform for Europlanet to participate in future funding calls, such as Horizon Europe, and providing training services for the community.

Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

How to cite: Heward, A., Kurtze, L., and Özdemir-Fritz, S.: FTP-Europlanet gUG – A Not-for Profit Enterprise to Support Astronomy and Planetary-Related Education, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1064, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1064, 2024.

On-site presentation
Anita Heward, Federica Duras, Livia Giacomini, Luca Nardi, James McKevitt, Thibaut Roger, Seda Özdemir-Fritz, and Lothar Kurtze

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project defined, at the time of proposal submission in 2019, an ambitious programme of education, outreach and media engagement activities designed to maximise the societal impact and engagement of European citizens with the project and with planetary science. After four and a half years, including an extension of six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Europlanet 2024 RI project is coming to an end in July 2024.

Outreach and education programmes have been amongst the most affected within the Europlanet 2024 RI project by the pandemic, since the original plans were highly-dependent on face-to-face activities. Many programmes delivered at the end of the project are either completely new or significantly adapted for online delivery, compared to the original proposal. Innovations include a schools engagement programme linked to Europlanet’s annual meeting, a Discord server, online contests, online training and a magazine.

In this presentation, we will discuss challenges in developing and sustaining an outreach programme for Europlanet, both over the course of this project and in the longer term. We will share lessons learned from experiences of practicing public engagement and educational activities during the pandemic and post-pandemic eras. Finally, we will present sustainability plans for Europlanet’s outreach, education, and media activities.


The Europlanet 2024 RI project has developed a number of resources to support teaching of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) subjects. The Europlanet Society’s Outreach Working Group and the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) network have supported the testing, evaluation, and dissemination of the activities, which include ready-to-use lesson plans for teachers themed around Mars and the icy moons of the Solar System.

The education team has also worked in collaboration with partner institutions and networks to run activities. Among the most successful new programmes has been ‘EPSC* Goes Live for Schools’, developed in partnership with Lecturers Without Borders, Scientix and Frontiers and the Europlanet Society’s Diversity Committee and EPEC. Launched in 2020 and held annually in association with the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)*, the programme has reached hundreds of school children in the meetings’ host cities (Granada and Bratislava) and online.

In 2022-2023, the education team carried out consultations aimed at teachers and science communicators in order to understand their needs and identify how Europlanet could better contribute to the planetary science education landscape at the European level. The recommendations from this survey will guide future planning and strategic activities of the Europlanet Outreach Working Group.

* Note: In 2023 EPSC was held jointly with the US Division of Planetary Sciences in the USA, hence the European-based Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) was the focus for the ‘…Goes Live’ programme in 2023.


In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, early project activities shifted online. Initiatives included a photo competition to mark the BepiColombo flyby of Earth in April 2020, organised in collaboration with ESA communications and INAF, as well as an annual arts competition, #InspiredByOtherWorlds, which is linked to EPSC and co-organised with the Europlanet Society Outreach Working Group. Outreach providers and educators received training via online workshops and webinars,  featuring hands-on sessions with tools like the Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit and 'Planets in a Room' display kits.

In the latter half of the project, face-to-face events resumed, with Europlanet participating in large-scale outreach events, including the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Leiden and non-traditional events, such as Fantasy Basel, attended by thousands of members of the public.

The Europlanet Summer School 2023, which focused on skills development for early career researchers and amateur astronomers, offered training modules and assignments on topics including  an introduction to science communication, writing for the media, engaging with schools, and exhibition design.


The Europlanet website is the main platform for dissemination of the project’s activities. Over 700 posts on project announcements, publishable reports on facility visits, Expert Exchanges, meeting reports and other updates have been posted over the course of the project. The site has deployed dynamic tools and aggregators to link relevant content to facilities, Regional Hubs and areas of interest (e.g. Diversity or Outreach). Since 2023, a Discord server has offered further opportunities for engagement and discussion with the planetary community.

The Europlanet Media Centre has been responsible for disseminating the activities and results of the Europlanet 2024 RI project to the media and wider community. The social media landscape has changed significantly over the project. While Twitter/X remains the platform with the largest following for @europlanetmedia (doubling over the course of the project from 2K-4K followers), the transition from Twitter to X in 2023 has had a profound impact on the effectiveness of the channel; the number of new followers has slowed, and the number of impressions has also very significantly reduced compared to previous years. By contrast, LinkedIn saw a doubling of followers within the past year.

Over 50 press releases associated with the project and Europlanet Science Congress have garnered international coverage. Notably, results from the Europlanet 2024 RI SPIDER activity have led to several well-received press releases linked to Nature Astronomy/Communications papers.

Europlanet also launched a Magazine in 2021, with the aim of providing a more in-depth showcase for the activities of Europlanet 2024 RI project and the wider Europlanet community. This has proved successful, reaching an audience of around 2000 per issue, but has also provided an opportunity to capture, follow-up on and summarise the results of activities, providing new insights into outcomes and longer-term impacts.


At EPSC2024, Europlanet will present its plans and funding model for sustainability of its activities. The establishment of sustainable structures, including the Europlanet Society Outreach Working Group, the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) Network and the non-profit organisation, FTP-Europlanet gUG, should enable Europlanet to continue to support the community in education, outreach and communications activities.

Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

How to cite: Heward, A., Duras, F., Giacomini, L., Nardi, L., McKevitt, J., Roger, T., Özdemir-Fritz, S., and Kurtze, L.: Education, Outreach and Communication in the Europlanet 2024 RI project, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1128, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1128, 2024.

On-site presentation
Tobias Beuchert, Jessica Agnos, and Adrienne Cool

The climate crisis is a challenge of planetary proportions that requires a rapid response at all levels. However, the necessary momentum can only be maintained if all parts of society not only understand the science behind it, but also trust scientists. Recent developments in the political and public sphere have led to highly polarized debates on social media, elevated levels of frustration, anxiety about the sum of global crises, and even hate speech and threats against scientists. New strategies in science communication are key to building a society that is resilient to global crises.

Astronomers for Planet Earth (A4E) is an international grassroots movement of astronomy educators, amateurs, and scientists, working to address the climate crisis from an astronomical perspective.

How can astronomers and planetary scientists do so effectively? By stretching the minds and imaginations of the public, we evoke fascination and awe. We can turn the astronomical perspective inwards, back to Earth, and focus the public on the uniqueness, wonder, and fragility of life on our only home — and the critical need to protect it. In this presentation, we will introduce A4E and its outreach activities, which include short professionally produced films and public engagement activities.

Our short films can be seen on both Vimeo and YouTube and are meant to inform and inspire the audience. The intention behind the short film format is to be easily shared via social media, email, and even in classrooms. The films themselves have informative astronomical content with messages of hope and empathy so that the audience walks away with an intrinsic motivation for action.

An example of a public-engagement project is an audio-visual astronomy concert hosted by churches. "There is no Planet B" is the emotional framework within which we take a scientific journey from the beginnings of the universe to the formation of the planets, and ultimately, to the sprawling diversity of life on Earth that is yet unmatched in our cosmological discoveries. Impressive videos, room-filling light design, rousing organ music, and popular science keynote speeches flow into each other to create an immersive environment filled with inspiring “wow” moments.

These outreach projects have the same goal – to move the audience emotionally in a way that only astronomy can do, so that they walk away feeling motivated to care for the delicate web of life unique to our planet. These projects allow people to come together, even those with opposing views. Astronomy offers breathtaking images to marvel at as well as unrivaled success stories of global collaboration, pushing the boundaries of human achievement. We use astronomy to build trust in science and provide guidance when the scale and complexity of climate change is overwhelming. In this talk, we will share ideas on how to engage audiences constructively with critical issues such as climate change.

We also want to discuss the challenges and rewards that we have been facing during this interdisciplinary project, which extends to the larger context of science communication as well. This pursuit takes time, commitment, and skill in public engagement. We are aware that science communication is often seen as something in addition to demanding research activities. We argue that this pursuit is worth the effort because scientists can provide guidance where science literacy is lacking, and that there is an institutional need to support these efforts.

We acknowledge that those with the time to commit to this cause are often in positions of privilege in their careers and have relative financial stability, so that the voices most often heard do not necessarily reflect the communities most affected by the climate crisis already.

At A4E we have evaluated our outreach efforts, and we know we can do better. While the short films are easily shareable, we need a better strategic marketing and public relations campaign to gain larger audiences and have far-reaching digital engagement. Our astronomy concerts have so far mainly reached an academic audience. In the future, we want to center cultural and socioeconomic diversity in all our outreach efforts so that our message better serves the global community. We also want to include early-career scientists in our efforts so that they may gain needed experience in communicating and broaden the representation within our own community.

How to cite: Beuchert, T., Agnos, J., and Cool, A.: "There is no Planet B": Why science communication supports society in times of polycrises, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1369, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1369, 2024.

On-site presentation
Daniela de Paulis

On 24 May 2023 a radio signal containing a simulated extraterrestrial message was transmitted towards Earth by the Trace Gas Orbiter, a Mars orbiting spacecraft of the European Space Agency. The signal was received by the Green Bank Telescope and the Allen Telescope Array in the United States and by the Medicina Radio Antenna in Italy. The event was part of the interdisciplinary project “A Sign in Space” and was streamed live by the SETI Institute, with thousands of people watching in real time. The project has been conceived and directed by media artist Daniela de Paulis, currently artist in residence at the Green Bank Telescope and at the SETI Institute. After the live event, the raw data of the signal were published in the public domain. Shortly after, an international group of citizen scientists gathered on the online platform Discord to work on the decoding process, and in just one week, they managed to extract the message from the raw data of the signal. This was an extraordinary achievement by the citizen scientist community who accomplished this feat by collaborating with each other. The data of the message extracted from the radio signal were visualised by the Discord community as an image composed by a black background and white dots. This image, named “Star Map” has been the object of hundreds of interpretations by many people who are trying to further decode the data and give them scientific and cultural meanings. The message however remains undecoded and the decoding process is ongoing. "A Sign in Space" has been reaching the international public. The project, designed as a work of cosmic theatre, has created an imaginary event to be experienced subjectively and collectively by people from various cultures and geographical locations. In "A Sign in Space", people active in the decoding process are members of a micro-society, engaged in the process of meaning making. The decoding process has been fostering a collaborative approach, over a competitive one. “A Sign in Space” stages a concrete "first-contact scenario", simulating the societal, scientific and cultural impact of the first detection of a radio signal from an extraterrestrial civilisation. “A Sign in Space” presents a socially innovative event, in which the general public plays a crucial role in decoding a potential extraterrestrial message, employing collective intelligence and skills. In the project, citizen scientists venture into a journey of scientific, cultural, artistic exploration, working independently and in groups. "A Sign in Space" asks how humans, as a multitude of societies with very diverse cultural backgrounds, give meaning to concepts, events, phenomena, using one of the possibly most radical scenarios that humankind might encounter: attempting to assign meaning to a message from an extraterrestrial civilisation. How can we possibly give meaning to something so detached from our terrestrial experience?


How to cite: de Paulis, D.: A Sign in Space: Global Collaboration as Cosmic Theatre, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1155, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1155, 2024.

On-site presentation
Luca Montabone

Introduction: This project aims to create a small-scale physical simulator to demonstrate the effects of Coriolis and centrifugal forces in a uniformly rotating fluid. The pedagogical goal is to illustrate the key role of rotation in planetary atmosphere dynamics to students and the public through simple experiments in a portable laboratory setting. The design and production of a prototype began in 2021 as a student project. The Europlanet Public Engagement Funding Scheme provided funding to enhance the device in 2022. Further improvements to the prototype are ongoing, but the device is already suitable for outreach events. Plans for the future include transitioning from prototyping to serial production and developing step-by-step experiment guidelines.

The device: Rotating tanks of various sizes are already in use at several geophysical laboratories (Fig. 1). However, our device stands out due to four innovative features:

  • The device, tentatively named "Coriotron" or "Rotatron" (the final name is yet to be determined), is specifically designed to be folded and fit into a medium-sized suitcase for easy transportation to outreach and educational events (Fig. 5).
  • It is adaptable for conducting a variety of experiments demonstrating the role of rotation in planetary atmospheric dynamics. For example, it can replicate several meteorological phenomena such as mid-latitude waves (Earth, Mars) and coherent vortices (polar or mid-latitude), as shown in Fig. 4.
  • We are committed to minimizing production costs by seeking technical solutions that offer the best quality-to-price ratio (Fig. 2-3).
  • Our aim is to create a device that is user-friendly and comfortable to operate while maintaining rigorous scientific standards.

Currently, the device consists of a 50cm-diameter, 8kg-weight, motor-driven, wooden rotating platform. A plexiglass cylinder filled with water can be attached to the platform. An adjustable arm allows for the secure mounting of a camera approximately 50cm above the platform, enabling image capture in the rotating reference frame (refer to Fig. 2-4). An illumination system, although still in need of improvement, provides optimal lighting conditions for visualization. We currently control the device using Python-based software, with ongoing development to implement an ergonomic Graphical User Interface (GUI).

Presently, the video signal from the camera is routed to a mobile phone and then shared with a laptop using an application. However, this setup introduces delays in signal transmission, which is not ideal. We are actively seeking solutions to directly transmit the video signal from the camera to a laptop and subsequently to a large screen or projector.

Vision: If we successfully complete the prototyping of the initial device at relatively low costs, we can consider future production to meet the needs of the planetology and geophysics communities for portable experiments. The vision of this project is to manufacture such devices for distribution to multiple European institutions, accompanied by the development of step-by-step experiment guidelines. In doing so, it aligns with the objective of expanding and supporting a diverse and inclusive planetary community across Europe, while also fostering international collaboration to share best practices for utilizing the device during outreach events.

Moreover, art and science seamlessly blend during experiments with this device, where two-dimensional turbulence in the rotating frame creates captivating abstract paintings when visualized with colored dye. If artists embrace the opportunity to utilize this device for artistic expression, the project's potential outreach could expand exponentially.

Acknowledgments: The author would like to acknowledge funding from the Europlanet Public Engagement Funding Scheme 2022. The author is indebted to the “University Institute of Technology” (IUT) based in Annecy, France, for facilitating collaboration with two of their second-year students, and to the “La Turbine” cultural and educational centre (also based in Annecy, France) for offering a venue to host one of the students.

Figure 1: The rotating tank in the laboratory simulates the effect of the planetary rotation using a local flat-planet approximation (Adapted from: Hill et al., BAMS 99, Issue 12, pp 2529-2538, 2018)

Figure 2: A scheme of the portable rotating tank (Credits to: Aurélian GINET, project student in 2021)

Figure 3: Picture of the device, including the Plexiglas cylinder

Figure 4: Examples of mid-latitude waves and polar vortex reproduced in the portable rotating tank and visualized using coloured dyes

Figure 5: The device can be folded and fitted in a medium-sized suitcase

How to cite: Montabone, L.: Demonstrating Planetary Atmosphere Weather in a Portable Rotating Tank, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1352, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1352, 2024.


Posters: Tue, 10 Sep, 14:30–16:00

Display time: Tue, 10 Sep 08:30–Tue, 10 Sep 19:00
Chairpersons: Petr Broz, Claudia Mignone, Livia Giacomini
On-site presentation
Petr Broz and Lucie Škodová

In the age of the social media boom and the never-ending influx of catchy audiovisual content, does it still make sense to write popularization books? And is it possible to reach a wide audience with them in today's age of all kinds of excitement? These are questions that many of us are looking for answers to. A glance at the travelers on the subway or in a bus offers a picture of a world in which books have virtually disappeared. Instead of looking at the printed page, we all are mostly looking at the glowing screens of our smartphones. At first glance, it might seem that investing time in writing popular science books is not worth it.

But to write off popular science books as useless would be premature. Printed books are still a tool with which to make a big impact and thereby disseminate scientific knowledge to the population. It just needs to be well-conceived, visually interesting, and the author needs to know from the beginning what readership he or she is trying to speak. If (s)he succeeds, (s)he can stimulate the curiosity of a large audience with his work. And we are lucky enough to have succeeded in doing just that.

Below, therefore, we present a pair of popular science books, one dealing with solar system research and the other with geosciences, which have enjoyed considerable readership and commercial success in the Czech Republic.

Case study 1: Vesmírníček (Bedtime, Spacetime)

It is a children's book that has sold around 20,000 copies in less than two years. It has officially become a Czech bestseller, it has been reprinted several times and the rights have been sold abroad as well. So this book fulfills the dream of all authors! 

Figure 1: Cover of the Czech edition of the book.

This success has been achieved by a book which, with the help of 70 stories, tries to bring readers closer to the research of the Solar System. Unlike most books produced for children about the Solar System, this is not an encyclopedia in which selected facts about the planets, moons and other bodies orbiting the Sun are arranged side by side. Instead, it is written as a "never-ending" answer to children's "why" and "how" questions. But not just any questions. In 160 lavishly illustrated pages, we're not afraid to introduce readers to the complex questions that planetologists tackle.

Readers can learn, for example, why magma rises from volcanoes to the surface, why it is so warm inside the planets, why impact craters on Mercury are linked to volcanic activity, why Mars is red, or how is it possible that some of the surfaces of the moons are (geologically speaking…) so young ! Each story is accompanied by a rich and humorous illustration that attempts to explain the geological phenomenon in terms of something children are commonly familiar with. Thus, the Sun plays billiards with hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the Martian atmosphere, or giant ticks move across the surface of Venus.

Figure 2: Example of one chapter from the book.

The explanation is presented in a serious yet empathetic manner and contains a number of analogies that aptly introduce the complex topic of solar system research to young readers. The book also features a pair of guides - knowledge worms - who constantly bicker together and comment on complex scientific theories and discoveries with the help of witty dialogue. 

While it might seem from the illustrations that this is a children's book for ages 6 to 10, this is not the case. In fact, the content of the book from the beginning targets two reading groups, not only children but also an older audience, parents of children. The book was therefore designed from the beginning to be read by these two reading groups together at bedtime. That is, at a time when most of us would rather reach for a book than a smartphone. And that contributes to its huge reading success. It is, after all, a convenient tool for spending time together. This strategy allows us to reach two groups simultaneously and thus outreaching science to a much wider part of the population.

Case study 2: Geostorky (Geostories)

In the autumn of 2023, we published a second book consisting of stories from the world of geoscience, which has sold around 5,000 copies so far this year. The book is aimed at older readers and aims to popularise geology, not in the form of a list of scientific facts, but through engaging and dramatic stories. In 300 pages, 25 stories from around the world are told. Readers can learn about the fate of the North American city of Centralia, under which a seemingly endless supply of coal began to burn, the salinization of the Australian outback, the volcanic eruption of Iceland's Lakagigar volcano that changed the course of history, or the drilling of a salt mine under Lake Peigneur.

Figure 3: Cover of the Czech edition of the book.

Like The Little Spaceman, this book has been widely read, but also very warmly received by the reading public. This is helped by the format chosen to tell each story. The reader is always confronted with the specific fate of one person or group of people (whether real or fictional) and the course of an ecological or geological disaster, or even a groundbreaking discovery transforming the world of geoscience, through which the story is told. Thus, the individual stories have a dramatic-detective character that captivates the reader and, according to the positive feedback on the book, makes him or her want to read the story (or even the whole book).

The book is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter that hint at what the story will be about.

Figure 4: Example of one chapter from the book (in Czech).

How to cite: Broz, P. and Škodová, L.: The story of two successful books popularizing geosciences in the Czech Republic, Europlanet Science Congress 2024, Berlin, Germany, 8–13 Sep 2024, EPSC2024-1052, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2024-1052, 2024.