The Chilean Night Sky in Ultra High Definition

astronomy, communication, ESO, science communication

I am pleased to announce here “Phase 2” of our ESO Ultra HD Expedition releases. In ESO’s Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD) we have been busy working through the 10TB of UHD footage our ESO Photo Ambassadors captured while visiting each of ESO’s sites in Chile in April/May.

Each of the huge number images and videos have to be carefully processed by our graphics team as they help bring out the very best of this stunning footage. Once these are uploaded by our web team, it is the responsibility of the science communication interns (that includes me!) to give some description to each of the images and videos to try to put them into some context for our archive. This also requires a careful consideration of certain keywords, which can help with a search of the vast amount of content ESO makes available to the public.

Our video coordinator, Herbert Zodet (also a team member on the expedition) carefully brought together some of the most spectacular timelapses and other footage taken during the expedition for inclusion in the ESOcast. It was my responsibility to co-write the script, working within a basic skeleton of the ideas we put together from this material.

Here’s the announcement of the ESOcast, which was released along with a blog post from Herbert about capturing the Chilean night sky in ultra HD. The ESOcast can be viewed on YouTube, as seen below:

As another month passes by, it is now my final month here at ESO. It’s a pity it will soon come to an end, but I’m looking forward to making the most of my time left both at ESO and in/around Munich. It’s been a lot of fun, as much as it has also been a lot of work. All in all it has been a fantastic experience.

The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory. Subscribe to the video podcast now to keep up with the latest news from ESO: the ESOcast is available via iTunes in HD and SD. It’s also available on YouTubeVimeo and dotSUB and is offered for download in several formats.

Featured image: Screenshot of ESOcast 65. Credit: ESO

#EELTblast Livestream and Live Tweet

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

There are opportunities for science communicators, including media representatives and science centres around the world to witness first-hand the exciting milestone of the blasting of Cerro Armazones, the 3000-metre peak that will be the home of the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — what will be “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

A live video stream will be webcast on Livestream and via YouTube on Thursday 19th June 2014 from 17:00 UTC until around 19:00 UTC. Participants can also follow the live tweeting done by @ESO under the hashtag #EELTblast and ask questions in English that we will try to answer in real time as much as possible. See further details in the announcement by ESO.

Featured image – The Paranal-Armazones Area. Credit: ESO/M. Tarenghi

The Beauty of Maths and the Number 27

astronomy, communication, personal, science

I sure love the magic and beauty of numbers. Everything is numbers! Maths is everywhere! Patterns appear in nature, in structures around the world and even in distant galaxies.

Bertrand Russell expressed his sense of mathematical beauty in these words:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

Twenty-seven is a perfect cube, being 3^3 = 3x3x3 and is the result of adding together the integers from 2 to 7 (2+3+4+5+6+7=27). It is also the only positive integer that is 3 times the sum of its digits (3x(2+7)). And 27 is the number of bones in the human hand.

In astronomy, Messier 27 (M27) is the magnificent planetary nebula otherwise known as the ‘Dumbbell Nebula’ and was the first planetary nebula to be discovered; in 1764 by Charles Messier from whom the catalogue bears his name. (See Featured image. Credit: ESO)

ISS Expedition 27 mission patch

And finally 27 is the Expedition number which was Italian astronaut, Paolo Nespoli’s second spaceflight. I have had the great fortunate of meeting him several times, including a Mission X opening event, Farnborough International Airshow, International Space University and he even appeared in a video appearance for us for the UKSEDS 25th Anniversary conference last year. From Expedition 26/27 he filmed the majority of the footage for the documentary film First Orbit, filming the view Yuri Gagarin saw on his pioneering orbital space flight. Paolo also captured many beautiful images during his mission, named MagISStra.

So why the number 27? Well, today is my 27th birthday!

Of course, I’m not going to argue with the great Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory that the best number is in fact 73.

Hire me!

astronomy, BIS, communication, science, science communication, SGAC, space exploration, UKSEDS, UNAWE

Hello there!

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or my blog, you may already know a bit about me and my activities. I’m currently looking out for possible writing opportunities in science, physics and astronomy. If you’ve reached here and you’re someone looking for pitches, I’d be interested in the types of stories you have the most urgent need to fill!

My name is Ryan Laird, a science communicator from the UK and active #spacetweep. Since the start of January, I have been working as a Science Communication Intern at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. Based in Garching near Munich, Germany, I am working in ESO’s ePOD (education and Public Outreach Department) with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of ESO, European Space Agency (ESA)/Hubble Space Telescope and International Astronomical Union (IAU) news and photo releases, publications, web pages, video scripts, exhibition panels and other public communication products. In addition, I have been actively supporting communication regarding the ESO Ultra HD expedition and am a ghostwriter for the UHD blog. I’ve become used to the fast pace dynamic and accuracy as required in this role.

I am a recent Graduate of the International Space University (ISU)‘s Space Studies Programme 2013 (SSP13), where I received generous support from the UK Space Agency and ESA. I am also a graduate of the University of Leicester, UK where obtained the degree of Physics with Astrophysics MPhys (Hons).

I have cherished many different opportunities to apply my skills and knowledge in a variety of areas including UKSEDS, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Universe Awareness (UNAWE), ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), among industry experts, university departments and other research organisations. I have also been actively involved in research and academia, having co-authored in the journal Nature — Snodgrass, C. et al., Nature, 467, 814-816 (2010), among others, gaining experience in the planetary sciences while researching Jupiter Family Comets.

I recently helped support the UNAWE International Office in Leiden, Netherlands where my main role was to expand the concept of Space Scoop (astronomy news for kids) to a diverse range of media platforms and syndicate the content. Here I investigated the best way to improve the syndication and distribution of science content produced for and by children to mainstream children’s media. I also wrote a number of Space Scoop articles and reviews of space content for kids.

Last year I also supported SGAC at their office in Vienna, Austria at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI). There I supported SGAC’s network of over 4000 members across more than 90 countries. In this capacity, I helped organise the Space Generation Fusion Forum, preparing and editing the SGAC Annual Report, supporting general operations, web content and administration.

I also regularly write for the British Interplanetary Society‘s magazine, Spaceflight and as Vice Chair (formerly Secretary), I prepare content for UKSEDS‘ media. In addition, I maintain my own website here at rjmlaird.co.uk where I write some of my own musings in a blog, along with some space news and is where you can find additional information about me and my work.

Together my experiences have provided a me with a great range of expertise, which I’d be keen to use in a capacity to further promote astronomy, space and physics to a much wider audience — subjects very close to my heart. To further acquaint you with the specifics of my background you can view my CV from my website here (also downloadable as a .pdf and viewable on LinkedIn), along with my activities and publications which show some of my writing samples.

Also View Ryan Laird's profile on LinkedIn is where you can see some recommendations on my work. Most recently my Head of Department  (ePOD) here at ESO, Lars Lindberg Christensen, wrote me a reference downloadable here as .pdf. I am happy to provide further references if needed.

Do please get in touch if you know of or have any opportunities available.

First Results from ESO Ultra HD Expedition

astronomy, science communication

As a science communication intern in ESO’s  Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD), I am involved at the heart of the outreach activities for this revolutionary ESO Ultra HD Expedition into the “Ultra High Definition Universe”. It has been great to be a small part of the expedition from the very start, throughout the expedition itself and now, the huge amount of UHD content being worked on currently. The first results from the expedition have now been released (see announcement for further details). 

A huge amount of content (over 120GB!) has been released freely to the public for usage under a very liberal licensing model.  ESO is perhaps the first scientific organisation to deliver free Ultra HD content which it aims to now do on a regular basis. This includes UHD footage suitable for planetarium shows  footage which will be used in thESO Supernova facility from 2017.

You can follow the ESO Ultra HD expedition on the ESOultraHD blog and on Twitter at #ESOultraHD.

Featured image credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi

Support ‘Universe in a Box’

astronomy, communication, IYA, science, science communication, UNAWE

At the end of last year, I helped support Universe Awareness (UNAWE). Unfortunately my time there at Leiden University was so very short. My main role was to help expand the concept of Space Scoop – astronomy news for kids – exploring the different popular news channels that are available for children and how science can have a higher presence in them.

UNAWE is an international programme that uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire children aged 4-10 years, particularly those from an underprivileged background. The programme uses astronomy to cultivate a sense of perspective, foster a global citizenship and stimulate interest in science at a crucial age in a child’s development.

This week UNAWE launched an innovative Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to support their efforts in sharing the educational toolkit, Universe in a Box, with underprivileged communities around the world. 

The Kickstarter campaign runs from 9 May until 10 June and aims to raise €15,000:


You can try out and look through the activities online here.

Featured image credit: UNAWE

ESO Ultra HD Expedition Well Under Way

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

The ESO Ultra HD Expedition is well underway. I feel in a unique and privileged position as a science communication intern in ESO’s  Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD) to be involved at the heart of the outreach activities for this revolutionary expedition into the Ultra High Definition Universe. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the world’s most productive astronomical observatory — aims deliver free Ultra HD content to all, from consumer to broadcaster for the first time.

After arriving in Chile last Monday, the team first set out to Paranal, home of the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) — ESO’s flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy. From here they have already taken a vast array of truly stunning images which can be seen on the ESO Ultra HD Expedition blog. I preview some below.

One of the Unit Telescopes with the Milky Way illuminating the VLT platform. One of the Auxiliary Telescopes can be seen to its right. Taken during the ESO Ultra HD Expedition. Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky

Babak at work on the VLT platform alongside Auxiliary Telescope 3 (AT3) during the ESO Ultra HD Expedition. Credit: ESO/C. Malin (christophmalin.com)

Today they will arrive at ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array.  Located on the Chajnantor Plateau, 5000 metres above sea level, the individual antennas can combine to act together as a giant single telescope.

On the final leg of the expedition, the team will head to La Silla, ESO’s first observatory. Located on the edge of the Atacama Desert, it is 600 kilometres north of Santiago, and 2400 metres above sea level. La Silla is home to the ESO 3.6-metre telescope and the 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT).

You can follow the ESO Ultra HD expedition on the ESOultraHD blog and on Twitter at #ESOultraHD.

Featured image above: A panoramic shot of the VLT platform with the red shades of airglow visible overhead. Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky. For the full image visit the ESO website here.