#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.

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

Bitte Zurückbleiben!

science, travel

Each morning I take the U-bahn (underground) from my current home in Garching to Garching Forschungszentrum (research centre) as I head to work at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). I’ve become familiar with the sound of the U-bahn: “Bitte Zurückbleiben!” (Please stand back!) as the doors of the train close.

The centre is also home to many other top scientific organisations. With more than 6,000 employees and more than 13,000 students, the Garching Forschungszentrum is one of the largest centres for science, research and teaching in Germany. I feel very privileged to be here.

IMG_1527

Garching Forschungszentrum U-bahn sign shows directions to some of the top scientific organisations in the world.

It’s hard to believe I have been here little over three months. I’m enjoying the sites, sounds and tastes of this quiet, little suburban town just outside Munich. As I head to work each morning, it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation of the local bakery.

Krapfen

A type of doughnut common to Germany, known as a “Krapfen” in Bavaria and much of Austria. More commonly known as a “Berliner”.

Pretzel (or "Bretzel" as they are known in Bavaria).

Pretzel (or “Bretzel” as they are known in Bavaria).

Of course, Bavaria is also famed for its beers. I personally prefer the ‘dunkles weißbier’ (or dark wheat beer). Most recently I visited the Hofbräuhaus with the giant one-litre beer jugs with huge bretzels.  Being vegetarian, sometimes choices of food can be quite difficult compared with home, but I have become accustomed to spätzle – a type of egg noodle which is best made with cheese. I first tried this in Austria and is not something you can generally find in the UK.

I’m hoping to make the most of the coming few months by exploring the surrounds of Munich more. I hear there are some wonderful castles. I hope to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck, each only an hour or so away in Austria. Maybe I can also stretch a visit to Switzerland to visit a friend, only a few hours or so away from here. I’m looking forward to the coming months here in central Europe.

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.

First Ring System Around Asteroid

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

After a media advisory announced yesterday that ESO would “announce a discovery in the outer solar system” the strict embargo has finally been lifted to announce the discovery of the first ring system around an asteroid — the minor planet Chariklo was discovered to have two rings. I co-wrote the ESOcast. Here’s the Nature paper from which it was based.

At ESO, I am really enjoying working with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of science news, press releases and video scripts, among other publication content. The following has been several weeks in the making.

I’m happy to have experienced the full process of seeing a research paper and the drafting of a science release, taking it to a video script. Over a month ago, I then got to travel to a small town, south of Munich called Tegernsee to see how these video casts are recorded behind a green screen.

Now, after lots of truly amazing work by our animation and graphics team and after helping bring the finishing touches (final editing, retrofitting the script and uploading to DotsUB for translations), the ESOcast I co-wrote has finally been released.

Here’s the announcement of the release of the ESOcast which can be viewed on YouTube, as seen below:

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 YouTube ,Vimeo and dotSUB and is offered for download in several formats.

Featured image:  Artist’s impression of how the rings might look from close to the surface of Chariklo. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)