Charting a Course Through the Cosmos
This project has ended, but you can still support this initiative and others led by the Astronomy Graduate Students. Visit us online to make your gift today!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk on the surface of Pluto, or fly by the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? We’re a group of scientists at the UC Berkeley astronomy department and we’d like to help you find out. We’re raising money to integrate astronomy visualization tools with new virtual reality technology to create an interactive and immersive platform for communicating our department's research with the public. In short, we are fundraising for equipment that would allow us to:
- Share astronomical phenomena that cannot normally be seen through a backyard telescope
- Fly through the galaxy and interact with astronomy up close
- Use new technologies to spark interest in STEM
We’d like to build an encompassing immersive outreach platform here at Berkeley using the astronomy visualization tools World Wide Telescope and Space Engine. These two programs, in conjunction with a touch screen kiosk in our lobby or with tablets and virtual reality headsets for outreach events, will take public communication of current astronomy research to a new level. Once implemented, people can take a virtual reality tour to the beginning of the universe or watch a star explode form up close, all with a swipe of their finger. The flexibility of our proposed setup will even allow us to bring astronomy into classrooms around the Bay Area through existing science outreach initiatives.
We are excited that the public is interested in astronomy! This past year we launched Astro Night, a monthly event that brings the community to our building for a lecture from an expert followed by stargazing. The lecture series got over 1,800 people interested on Facebook and drew increasing attendance with each event, with up to 300 people attending in one evening. Participants ranged from Berkeley students to families from all over the Bay Area, who commonly expressed a desire for more such outreach events.
Astro Night attendees waiting to stargaze through the Campbell Hall rooftop telescope
The success of this series and a graduate student’s video of directly imaged planets orbiting another star going viral, really clarified for us the power of visualization in conveying science and inspired us to develop a more interactive outreach platform.
We wish to engage children and the public at large not only with astronomy, but with science as a whole by pushing the limits of what new virtual reality technology can accomplish. Consider making a donation now to help us finance the hardware to make this possible!
Students and visitors on UC Berkeley campus viewing a partial solar eclipse