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Field Report from the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador Program

Posted on Thu, June 16, 2016
  • by: Geneviève de Messières manages the astronomy education program in the Education Department of the National Air and Space Museum
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I’m snatching moments to write this from Chile, sitting on the floor of the airport, or bouncing up winding mountain roads in a van. I’m here as an Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador, with eight other ambassadors.

I’m on my way to see some of the greatest observatories in the world and to experience Chile’s legendary night skies. This is a lifelong dream of mine, and I’m also excited to be a part of this team. We’re forging a partnership that will last for years. We’ll collaborate on several projects that will help educate people about how U.S. investments in the astronomy infrastructure here in Chile are transforming our understanding of the Universe.

For instance, the Gemini Planet Imager uses a sophisticated laser system to remove a star’s twinkling and blocks the star’s light to get beautiful images of planets orbiting the star. As the manager of the Museum’s astronomy education department, I’m excited to share what I discover with our visitors.

Image of Genevieve in front a sign for the ALMA observatory.

<p>Astronomy Educator Geneviève de Messières at an ALMA facility in Chile. Image: Smithsonian Staff</p>

So far we’ve explored Santiago, discussed the history of U.S. relations with Chile, and visited a luxury tourist observatory. Yes, they have those here. In Chile, astro-tourism is a growing business. I hope one day we can have the same here in the U.S., with beautifully appointed lodges equipped with rows of telescopes.

Next on our itinerary is to visit Gemini South; Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory; and ALMA, an observatory that captures images of the Universe in invisible light. On Thursday, June 16, the Museum will be hosting a live video chat with me from Cerro Tololo, broadcast in the Exploring the Universe gallery. If you come to the Museum, you can talk to me while I’m in Chile.

Astronomy education ambassadors stargazing in Chile

<p>Astronomy educator ambassadors from the ACEAP stargazing at a community observatory near La Serena, Chile. Geneviève de Messières, manager of the Museum's Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory, took this photo of her fellow ambassadors in June, 2016. </p>

You can also follow my adventure here in Chile on Facebook or Twitter with #ACEAP2016. After I return home, you can visit me at the Museum to hear more about the journey and the marvelous astronomy news coming out of Chile.