It’s summertime in the southern hemisphere, and for the past four years this has become synonymous with a community outreach program known to Gemini staff and family as AstroDay Chile. This program, which started as a mere handful of booths and kiosks from AURA observatories in 2005, has grown to host more than 17 institutions from Chile and beyond. AstroDay Chile, continues to be a leading community outreach program for scientific and public observatories the country.
However, this year (2011) a new element called Viaje al Universo Chile (Journey Through the Universe) has been adapted and added to the program.
“We are always trying to improve and modify our programs in order to partner with new entities such as local universities and city halls, as well as giving the opportunity for more people to play a role in our highly visible events,” says Ma. Antonieta Garcia, who organizes the local outreach programming for Gemini South.
This new program is scheduled to take place during the winter break for most Chilean schools. Gemini will take advantage of the students vacation and invite them and their families to participate in Viaje al Universo Chile, held at several junta de vecinos (community associations).
Saturday July 16th will kick off the AstroDay Chile event from 10 am to 8 pm at the Universidad de La Serena (as it was last year). Located in the heart of downtown La Serena, all of the invited scientific and public observatories are participating with displays and activities for the public to enjoy.
On Sunday July 17th there will be several rocket-launching workshops held in three locations within La Serena. After building their rockets, all three workshop groups will gather together to launch their rockets.
Starting on Tuesday, July 19th scientists from Gemini South will visit two junta de vecinos a day. These scientists will be interacting with students and leading them in activities in astronomy and engineering relevant to an astronomical observatory like Gemini.
“La Serena is a summer resort area, most of the activities take place during summertime, and we are glad that the Gemini Observatory has decided to introduce such an interesting program to the community in winter, which most of the community spends at home watching TV. This is a great opportunity that we are happy to be involved with,” says Catalina Cvitanic, Director of the Outreach and Visitors Center at the Universidad de La Serena.
Viaje al Universo Chile also includes two family nights, one at a local library where scientists will share two presentations (Wednesday) and a final get together on Friday with a Star Party and a connection to the summit of Cerro Pachón and the Hilo Base Facility (in Hawai’i) through our “Live from Gemini” program.
The Gemini Observatory Public Information and Outreach group is looking forward to an exciting program this year and expects this annual event to continue growing in years to come.