Astronomy Making Space in the West as NUI Galway Partnership Secures RAS Bicentenary Award

Pictured are siblings Sadhbh (12) Aisling (10) and Robbie (4) Butler at the NUI Galway Observatory following the announcement of the Galway award ‘Making Space’ as part of the Royal Astronomical Society bicentenary in 2020.
May 12 2017 Posted: 15:42 IST

Royal Astronomical Society funds five public engagement projects to mark 200th anniversary

NUI Galway in partnership with Galway City Museum, Galway Arts Centre and Croí na Gaillimhe has secured a Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) award to mark the bicentenary celebration RAS 200: Sky & Earth. This is the only project in Ireland to join four others from the UK to have received awards. RAS 200 projects involve partner organisations whose specialist knowledge brings effective ways to share the sciences.

Led by Professor Andrew Shearer in NUI Galway, Making Space is a multi-layered project that will begin this year and culminate in a year of creative events, collaborations and a celebration of astronomy and geophysics in 2020.

Developments such as an Outdoor Planetarium Exhibition at the City Museum and a Planetary Walk that stretches from the Galway Prom into the Spanish Arch and up river to the University, will be complemented by an education programme aimed at primary schools, early school leavers and children and adults in direct provision. Residencies and collaborations between artists and scientists will take place, creating new research and artworks with schools and the public. A new music piece will also be commissioned.

The artistic commissions, residencies, scientific engagement and education projects all intertwine to contribute understanding, discussion and dialogue to the already vibrant arts and culture scene, and the science community in Galway city and county. 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.

Speaking of the award, Professor Shearer said: “With our RAS 200 project we want to address creativity and innovation for artists and scientists by showing that the astronomical sciences can stimulate artistic projects and ventures. We want this to be a two-way process hereby we can also, as astronomers, learn different ways of communicating our science to different audiences.”

Making Space came to fruition after a public consultation meeting in Galway City Museum with representatives from the RAS in 2016. Making Space is informed by the contributions from this meeting and the multi-layered and collaborative approach of Making Space is reflective of the collective enthusiasm and innovation evident at that meeting. The Making Space partnership of Galway Arts Centre, Galway City Museum, NUI Galway and Croí na Gaillimhe will work together over the next four years in bringing astronomy to the heart of the Galway community.

Professor 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.”

Professor 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.”

Tactile stargazing for the blind, adventures in space for girls, astronomy and geophysics for rehabilitation of prisoners, and a science trailer for Cornwall make up the four other new public engagement projects supported by 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 at the RAS AGM in London.


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