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Astronomy outreach

The Astronomy & Astrophysics group at Warwick has an active outreach programme that engages with three distinct audiences.

Astronomy societies and adult education

Members of the group give frequent talks to astronomical societies across the midlands and south of England. We offer talks on subjects related to our research programme, including supernovae, exoplanets, black holes and gamma-ray bursts. A list of speakers and recent talks is given here.

Many of these societies are organised as adult education courses, with a core of committed enthusiasts and a much larger membership of interested novices. Through this activity we therefore engage with many individuals that have a peripheral interest in astronomy.

Wider public

We are well supported by a professional and pro-active press office at the University of Warwick, allowing us to communicate with mass audiences. A recent press release, linked to a paper in the journal Science, announced the discovery of a metallic gas disc around a white dwarf star, providing a glimpse of the ultimate fate of our own Solar System. The story was picked up globally, including coverage in the scientific press (Scientific American, New Scientist, National Geographic, Discovery Channel) and in mainstream news media (The Guardian, Stern, Die Welt, El Pais). Our press releases are routinely picked up by regional newspapers and radio stations (e.g. Coventry Times, BBC Coventry), especially stories highlighting our research collaborations with amateur astronomers (our work with a Birmingham-based amateur was recently featured by BBC Midlands Today). We also communicate through interviews in University of Warwick podcasts, Warwick iCasts and the astronomy jodcast from Jodrell Bank.

11-16 year olds

Perhaps our most significant impact is in enthusing 11-16 years olds with astronomy and thereby attracting them to careers in science and technology. We do this currently as partners in an STFC-funded project led by Richard Beare of the Warwick Institute of Education, in collaboration with the National Association for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY). The aim is to provide gifted and talented students in UK secondary schools with challenging and open-ended projects in astronomy that attract them to research careers. Projects make use of research resources including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Faulkes Telescopes. We also offer GCSE work experience placements in our group, giving secondary school students direct experience of scientific research. We intend to extend our outreach to this age group by providing access for local schools to a set of five radio telescopes that we are currently commissioning for undergraduate teaching. We will do this in collaboration with the Warwick Institute of Education, NAGTY, and the Radio Astronomy Group of the British Astronomical Association.