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

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

Last Chance to See Hadfield’s ‘Space Oddity’ Video

human spaceflight, science communication, space exploration

I’m gutted to read that former Canadian astronaut, Cmdr Chris Hadfield tweeted earlier today that his famous ‘Space Oddity’ video will be taken down later.  It seems David Bowie gave permission for the content to be online for a year, which comes to an end today.

Captured during Hadfield’s five months on board the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 34/35 (the latter for which he was commander), the astronaut was an inspiration to the world as the video has gathered over 22 million views on YouTube.

I’m very much enjoying reaching his book he released upon his return to Earth – “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”. It’s a pity I got to miss his book tour in the UK last December but I am hoping to see him this weekend in Munich.

Featured image above: Canadian astronaut, Cmdr Chris Hadfield in a screen shot from his video “Space Oddity” recorded on the ISS.

The Great British Space Dinner

human spaceflight, science communication

The UK Space Agency has launched a competition for school children between the ages of 7 and 14 to design a British-inspired, balanced and exciting meal for British ESA astronaut Tim Peake to eat during his 6 month mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The winning contestants will be invited to develop their ideas further with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, and these ideas will be turned into real space food that will be launched to the ISS. They will also be invited to an event that will include a live link up with Tim during his stay on the ISS.

For further information click here

Featured Image Credit: UK Space Agency