A stellar birthday for UCh

— Christoph Saulder

As part of the celebrations for the 170th anniversary of the Univerdad de Chile (UCh), an astronomy science fair was arranged on top of Cerro Calan on Saturday November 10th 2012. It is a small hill to the East of Santiago on which the astronomy department of the UCh is located.

Most observatories (such as Cerro Tololo) and astronomical organisations (such as ALMA), which maintain a presence in Chile were there to inform the general public about their work. Furthermore, astronomers of UdC provided a guided tour to their old telescopes on the hill and set up a small amateur telescope to observe the sun, too. The event lasted from 10 AM until about 2.30 PM, with some additional time before and afterwards for build-up and clean-up.

I was part of the team representing ESO along with Francisco Rodriguez from the outreach department, and Rodrigo Montalva, who is an engineering student at PUC and is currently on an internship. As the only professional astronomer on the team, I was assigned to answer the detailed science and instrumentation questions.

Since the vast majority of the people coming by our stand only spoke Spanish (there were only a few who spoke either English or German, my two most proficient languages), the questions really pushed my Spanish skills to their limits, but with the help of my colleagues I somehow managed to explain everything! The questions I was asked were surprisingly sophisticated and detailed, which demonstrates that the majority of the visitors were very interested in astronomy and have already had some basic knowledge in the field. Most of them were families with small children.

At the ESO stand, we provided information about our observatories (La Silla and Paranal) and their telescopes, as well as two other observatories of which ESO is a member (APEX and ALMA). We also had information regarding future projects, like the E-ELT. Furthermore, we had some give-aways starting with kites showing off the ESO logo for small children, and funny stickers with stars and telescopes. We had free posters of some fancy ESO images too – the one of the moon taken with the Wide-Field-Imager in particular seemed to be the most popular!

During the entire event we had about a hundred visitors and many of them manifested their interest in visiting an ESO-observatory in the near future.

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