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RAS funds five public engagement projects to mark 200th anniversary

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Credit: Glasgow Science Centre

Planet walks and planetaria in Galway, tactile stargazing for people with sight loss, adventures in space for girls, astronomy and geophysics for rehabilitation of prisoners, and a science trailer for Cornwall make up five new public engagement projects supported by more than £400,000 from the Royal Astronomical Society. The projects, backed by the RAS 200: Sky & Earth programme that celebrates the run up to the Society's bicentenary in 2020, were announced today (Friday 12 May) at the RAS AGM in London.

The winning projects are:

Beyond Prison Walls

Led by Bounce Back Foundation, a social enterprise focused on the training and employment of ex-offenders, Beyond Prison Walls will bring the wider universe into HMP Brixton and other prisons in London and the Home Counties. Uniting prisoners, families and communities, the project will use virtual reality and other materials to 'look at the skies' and allow inmates to contemplate their place in the wider universe. Participants will redecorate their environment around the theme of astronomy and space science, culminating in the building of a space / astronomy structure in one of the prisons.

Reaching for the Stars: Adventures in space for girls and young women

Girlguiding, in partnership with the UK Space Agency and the RAS, will give girls and young women aged five to 25 unique opportunities to engage with astronomy, space and planetary science. Using a hands-on, fun, and adventurous approach, the girls will be empowered to develop the skills, confidence and curiosity to explore the universe around them. The project will give girls and young women in communities across the UK a host of opportunities to develop their interest in astronomy, space science and planetary science, including at a host of activities led by inspirational experts at national events for girls and young women, and through a volunteering programme for RAS Fellows to be real life adventurous role models.

Touch the Sky: Tactile Stargazing for Blind People

Using innovative tactile starballs and support materials, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) will lead a "Touch the Sky" project to help thousands of people with sight loss to explore the night sky. Sets of materials will be delivered to ten science centres, planetaria, and museums around the UK. A training programme delivered by RNIB and Glasgow Science Centre staff will see the centres designated as "Touch the Sky" hubs, each of which will independently engage with their local communities.

Making Space

Galway, a city on the western Irish coast, has a tradition of innovation and creative thinking stretching over a thousand years. Making Space, led by the National University of Ireland Galway, will capitalise on the vibrant arts and culture scene in the city. The project will broaden and deepen this culture, by celebrating the breadth of astronomy: weaving it into public installations, music, a creative events programme, and engagement with diverse communities across the region, with an impact that will stretch beyond 2020.

Cornwall – Sea to Stars

'Cornwall – Sea to Stars' will showcase the astronomy and geophysics intrinsic and evident throughout this unique county, and bring it right to the doorstep of some of its most difficult to reach and socioeconomically deprived communities. A mobile trailer, purpose-built for presentation at events, will be fitted out with themed modules for use in – and by – different communities. The bid is a collaboration of professional, public, commercial and volunteer organisations with diverse interests, including astronomy, geophysics, archaeology, satellite tracking, marine engineering, mining history and tourism.

Prof John Zarnecki, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, offered his congratulations: "A major part of the work of the RAS is to foster interest in the sciences we support, namely astronomy and geophysics, and that's why we're celebrating our 200th anniversary with a revitalised public engagement programme. My hope is that RAS 200: Sky & Earth helps spur more people to pursue an interest, and perhaps even a career, in these fascinating disciplines."

Prof Steve Miller, who chairs the RAS 200 Steering Group that oversees the programme, added: "These projects led a competitive field, with more than 70 initial applicants, and it was a pleasure to announce their funding. I'm very much looking forward to working with all the winners, and seeing them make a real difference to the communities they serve."

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RAS media contacts

Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3979
Mob: +44 (0)7802 877699
[email protected]

Dr Morgan Hollis
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3977
[email protected]

Project contacts

Beyond Prison Walls

Francesca Findlater
CEO, Bounce Back Foundation
Mob: +44 (0)7770 648 993
Tel: +44 (0)20 7735 1256
[email protected]

Making Space

Prof Andy Shearer
NUI Galway
Galway
Ireland
Tel: +353 91 493114
[email protected]
http://astro.nuigalway.ie/staff/ashearer/

Michelle Ní Chróinín
Press Office
NUI Galway
Galway
Ireland
Tel: ++353 91 493542
[email protected]

Reaching for the Stars: Adventures in space for girls and young women

Victoria Finan
PR Officer
Girlguiding
Tel: +44 (0)20 7834 6242 x. 2038
[email protected]

Touch the Sky: Tactile Stargazing for Blind People

Press Office
Royal National Institute of Blind People
Tel: +44 (0)20 7391 2223
Out-of-hours enquiries: +44 (0)7968 482812
[email protected]

Cornwall – Sea to Stars

Jon Dean
Head of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Computing
Truro High School for Girls, Cornwall
Tel: +44 (0)1872 272830
[email protected]

Images and captions

https://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/RAS200/press/THS-140311-050.jpg Children and adults enjoying the view of the night sky in Cornwall. Credit: Jon Dean / Truro High School

https://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/RAS200/press/GSC%20Tim%20Peake%20Launch%20Event%2031.JPG An audience in the planetarium at Glasgow Science Centre, watching the International Space Station. Credit: Glasgow Science Centre

Notes for editors

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, http://www.ras.org.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

In 2020 the RAS will be 200 years old. To celebrate its bicentennial, the Society established RAS 200: Sky & Earth, an Outreach and Engagement Fund of £1,000,000 to support astronomy and geophysics projects that create a real buzz about science – understanding, discussion and dialogue – in diverse sections of the community. Find out more at http://www.ras.org.uk/200

T: https://twitter.com/royalastrosoc

F: https://www.facebook.com/RoyalAstroSoc/

Media Contact

Robert Massey
[email protected]
44-207-292-3979

http://www.ras.org.uk/ras

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