Life at ESO

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

I can’t quite believe I am fast approaching my fourth month at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). It has been an incredible experience here as I have got to work hands-on within the Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD) – responsible for the organisation’s outreach activities.

ePOD is a fun and creative environment to work in and ESO Headquarters is an energetic place, rich with a number of enthusiastic staff and students from all over the world.

Here I am working with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of ESO and ESA/Hubble news and photo releases, publications, web pages, video scripts, exhibition panels and other public communication products.

I find it is a great atmosphere here. Each morning I take the U-Bahn (underground train) to Garching Forschungszentrum – the stop for the “research centre”. With unlimited free coffee in the morning, it is a great fuel for the wonderful activities and challenges that come our way.

Later today I hope to show you an ESOcast I co-wrote. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement.


A 360-degree panorama of the entrance hall at ESO Headquarters, in Garching, near Munich, Germany. Credit: ESO/H. Heyer

News board at ESO

News board at ESO


At my desk in ESO ePOD. Credit: Christoph Malin

Featured image – The ESO Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany. Credit: ESO

A few weeks ago, I got to travel to a small town south of Munich called Tegernsee, located on the shore of Tegernsee lake close to the Alps. Here is home to the studio used by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at Perix Media to record both the ESOcast and Hubblecast.

Part of my job as journalist, science communication intern at ESO is to prepare video scripts for these video casts. This recording was for Hubblecast 72 (released 4th March) and for ESOcast 64 (to be released at the start of April).  My colleague, Nikita Marwaha wrote the former and I wrote the latter.

Here are a few photos from behind the scenes:


Colleague and fellow intern, Nikita Marwaha posing on the green screen. View from the camera.


Me on the green screen, trying out the script.


Me on green screen. View from the camera screen.


Dr J a.k.a. Dr Joe Liske on green screen during recording of Hubblecast 72.

Hubblecast 72 can now be viewed on YouTube or via Stay tuned for ESOcast 64.


astronomy, communication, science, science communication

Time for a Refresh – My New-Look Website

communication, travel, update

Every so often, I feel, it is time for a refresh.

I started out with a blog with Google Blogspot back in about 2009, when I was selected as the UK Student Representative for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009). I attended the Opening Ceremony in Paris at the start of that year and later I went to Krakow, Poland, for the International Conference of Young Astronomers (ICYA) 2009.

In the aim to be more professional, I then updated to more of a website with Freewebs which contained some of my work, as I wrote less for my blog. I sought to incorporate more of my work and interests. I imported my old posts to this site and would write the occasional post here and there when on my travels.

I am more of a social media “microblogger” these days, using Twitter among other sites. Various sites such as LinkedIn allow you to update your professional work, Facebook is good to share updates with friends and Twitter is a nice medium, I find, for general interests. In recent months I have slowly been incorporating these onto my site, which you see today. Maintaining my blog alongside, I have tended to find quite tricky.

Why the recent change?

My aim is for my website to be more visual and for my blog posts to be less text heavy. These past number of years I have been travelling a lot, taking in new experiences and learning much along the way. I really enjoy photography and own a Canon EOS 1100D DSLR. I frequently take images and I think I can maintain blog posts more easily in this new format. This is an interest I really want to build on as well.

I am also seeking to incorporate more of my professional work and am taking on more of a professional look website, alongside my interests and travel. My main interest, astronomy, is also a very visual subject. I aim to communicate this more effectively using a visual theme.

My main area of work is in science communication, as I am working as a journalist, science communication intern at the European Southern Observatory. Before that I was at UNAWE and I currently support activities in UKSEDS and SGAC, among others. My aim is to turn my site into a more user-friendly, visual experience with better updated content. You can see featured content more clearly as you enter the site.

To the left sidebar you will see my main activities, according to category of my latest blog posts. The top menu still contains my usual activities, publications, CV etc. which I am currently updating and reorganising in line with my latest work.

You can see I have also added RSS feeds for ESOcast and HubbleCast, which I am currently working on at ESO. You will also find the latest couple of Space Scoops from the UNAWE site in an RSS feed, which you can find at the bottom left-hand side. I also maintain featured content on Portal to the Universe, which you will also find in an RSS feed, to the bottom of my new-look website.

A couple of years or so ago, I upgraded to WordPress, which has also undergone several changes throughout the years. The themes they offer now, in my view are some of the best free ones available on the internet. I am really happy with WordPress’ latest update. I hope to bring you more visual content while on my travels here, working in Munich at ESO and much more.

My final Space Scoop

astronomy, communication, science, science communication, UNAWE

I am happy to share that the latest Space Scoop I wrote for UNAWE is finally up on their site here – “Your Weather Report from Across the Galaxy“. Sadly this is my last Space Scoop from my work at UNAWE. I wrote this over a month ago and was under embargo for a while until the paper was released in Nature, now published in the 30th January issue. This Space Scoop is based on a Press Release from ESO and reports on this research paper by I. Crossfield et al.

Many thanks to my friends, Oksana Tvorun and Yonatan Shapira (and his wife, Avishag Amit) who are now translating into Ukrainian and Hebrew, respectively.

Image caption: Artist’s impression is based on the first ever map of the weather on the surface of the nearest brown dwarf to Earth.

Image credit: ESO/I. Crossfield/N. Risinger (

Some good bedtime reading

books, communication, human spaceflight, reading, science, science communication, space exploration

Some good bedtime reading. Chris Hadfield’s book & A Hands-On Guide to Science Communication.

Many thanks to my very good friend, Paul Money for Chris Hadfield’s book. It’s a pity I didn’t catch him in the UK for signing, but I know this will make a very good read.

Through my work here at ESO, I was allowed to have a copy of “A Hands-On Guide to Science Communication” by my boss, Lars Lindberg Christensen who is the Head of the Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD). I am looking forward to gaining some new experience here at ESO in science communication.

Facebook rant

communication, facebook, rantings
It seems not a week goes by that I do not have to block some stupid Facebook application. Apparently everyone wants me to have a pet, be a vampire, receive a new type of bumper sticker, or support their cause. I am not totally innocent myself. I do join some Facebook apps and will invite friends, but I try to get people who might be interested.

The trouble with most of these applications is that they are cheaply made and highly buggy. I have some myself, a few I use daily, but they are quality made. They don’t randomly crash on me, and they do what they promise.

Facebook applications can be a great way for people to interact, show up some of the things they like, or integrate Facebook with third party programs like Twitter or Flickr. However, they are a dime a dozen and finding a good one is almost like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

I am all for social networking sites and the advancement of technology, but enough is enough. I cannot count the amount of vampire/werewolf invites I get. Not to mention many Facebook apps will send ad space to other cheaper-made apps. Then those apps will make you invite all of your friends before they work for you – not quite as bad now as it used to be.

I’m fed up of receiving stupid quizzes on my mini-feed. 99% of these I will hide or report as spam. I don’t need to say to everyone quite how bad these quizzes are in terms of their quality; bad spellings, repetitions and today I have seen rather offensive material as well. I’m not too bothered about certain “offensive” material, as much as any other person, but I just don’t think it’s acceptable by any means. In particular there should be a way off stopping ALL applications being posted on the minifeed if we so wish. If we want to take a quiz then we should know where to take it and not be spammed with this content continually.

Like I said before, not all of them are evil. There are days some of my friends and I will use Facebook bumper stickers as our primary form of communication. I used to have my Twitter update my Facebook status out of laziness.

So next time you want to send invites to all of your friends to join your vampire army or if you want to post a quiz result to the minifeed, ask yourself: “Do they really care?”

Rant over!