We’ve just wrapped up two incredible days of science engagement with the Open University’s School of Physical Sciences. Across this weekend, scientists working in major solar system exploration missions came together at Dynamic Earth for a two day extravaganza of hands-on, inspiring and exciting public engagement with our visitors.
The Physical Sciences Public Engagement and Outreach Team brought a spectacular array of interactive experiences and a wealth of expertise on some of the most exciting space exploration research happening right now. The event gave visitors to Dynamic Earth the opportunity to meet scientists working in the space sector on missions that have received significant media attention. This included the Rosetta Mission, one of the most complex missions ever conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA), which saw scientists safely land the Philae Probe on a comet for the first time. Philae was released from its mothership Rosetta back in November 2015, and successfully landed on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P for short. This was a significant achievement in space exploration and provides scientists with a new opportunity to unlock the secrets of the universe, researching answers to some of the biggest questions we all think about, such as how the solar system formed and how Earth is able to support life. The ESA Rosetta mission has revealed what comet 67P is made of and how it formed. The instruments on Rosetta and Philae have revealed the chemical composition of the comet, and even detected Amino Acids, the building blocks of all life on Earth. Scientists from the Open University even gave guests the opportunity to smell a sample of what they think comet 67P would smell like, based on the smellier chemicals detected by Philae’s mass spectrometer. If you would like to know more about the Rosetta mission, you can check out this video from the European Space Agency (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Oo8KnTsyk0).
Planetary scientists researching glaciers on Mars, astrobiology and the geology of Mercury were also on hand to engage customers in these exciting and evolving areas of science. They brought along incredible imagery showing the topography of Mercury and Mars, and gave guests the opportunity to explore the surface of Mars using state of the art data sets. Guests were challenged to find the
names of craters using a 3D model of Mercury, and many were surprised to learn there is a crater here called ‘Disney’ which looks like everyone’s favourite mouse! The different research areas and specialisms of these researchers highlights the wealth of opportunities in STEM, and how different science subjects can work together (chemists, biologists, geologists, geographers, engineers, astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and more) in space exploration research. Many guests found it particularly exciting to learn that data sets for the topography of Mars and Mercury are publically available, and the quality of the imagery we can receive from satellite exploration of planets is quite spectacular. Why not try exploring the surface of Mars for yourself when you’re done reading this blog?
As well as exciting exhibits and hands of experiences, the ‘Space Science Showcase’ gave visitors the opportunity to experience science busking shows and to take a journey into space with a planetarium experience. The Moon, Mars, Mercury, Plilae, Rosetta and Astrobiology were topics all covered in short, engaging and fun science shows delivered by expert OU staff. The showcase highlighted just how much amazing space science research is happening right now in Scotland, the UK and Europe as part of a global network of innovation and discovery.
If you would like to find out more about the research work at the Open University, or about study options, you can check out their website here http://www.open.ac.uk/science/physical- science/planetary-space-sciences
We’re committed to helping individuals from all backgrounds understand how Earth works, and are working to promote family science capital. If you are interested in holding a science showcase or ‘Meet the Scientist’ event with us at Dynamic Earth, please get in touch with our Science Engagement Officer, Conor Ellis, at firstname.lastname@example.org – and we would be delighted to discuss potential opportunities with you.