Last month we opened Raumschiff (space ship) – the maker Space for Astronomy in a neighbourhood at the outskirts of Zurich.
Making ‘spaceships’ during the opening night
After many years of doing outreach at individual events we sometimes felt that we had witnessed so many fires of enthousiasm which extinguished as quickly as they had been ignited. In order to make our efforts more sustainable, we started to look for a physical space where people can come again and again, getting involved in a much more profound way than during an event that takes place only occasionally.
In short, our idea was to promote astronomy as a hobby just like music or sports.
This space finally became reality. Raumschiff has now regular opening times during which people can drop in, just have a coffee and look around or try their hands at something of their interest. During this fall the main topic will be the sun and space weather, as this is our area of specialization. Of course, FLARECAST-related topics will play a prominant role. We promote a data-based approach to astronomy, starting by showing visitors how to observe the Sun with helioviewer.org and how to make images and movies. For some kids who had arrived in Switzerland only recently this was the first time they used a computer.
Other topics we plan to offer are astrophotography, observation instruments, the moon – topics that yeald a potential for hands-on activities. We also plan to set up a citizen science club whose members can meet on a regular basis and get support both with simple projects from Zooniverse and individual projects defined by the citizen scientists themselves. And a maker style science cafe, and …
Raumschiff is also meant to serve as a laboratory for developing new engagement formats. Responsible Research and Innovation RRI, one of the claims of which includes the cooparation between science and society, doesn’t happen over night. However, it is not a simple endeavour, as we do this on a volunteer basis in our spare time.
Hanna and André, FHNW