2016 Astronomy Outreach Ambassadors to Visit ALMA

12 May, 2016

A group of nine outreach and education professionals from across the United States and Puerto Rico was selected to be the 2016 class for the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP), an immersive astronomy outreach and awareness program sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

These ambassadors, each of whom has a strong background in formal and informal science education, will tour the major U.S.-funded astronomy facilities in Chile, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). While there they will receive an in-depth, behind-the-scenes learning experience on the instruments, science, and research coming out of these world-class observatories. The expectation is that each ambassador will translate these experiences into innovative, long-term outreach programs in their local community and beyond.

The ACEAP program, now in its second year, strives to build a diverse and lasting community of educators who are able to share their first-hand learning experiences broadly and effectively. The nine-day expedition, which begins officially on 11 June 2016, will include stops at ALMA, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and Gemini South Observatory.

In addition to the professional facilities, ACEAP ambassadors will visit smaller amateur and public observatories. Participants will also experience Chilean culture and society, as well as the astrotourism industry that has emerged in Chile.

“In its short history, ACEAP has become an amazing success, with educators helping the public understand the cutting edge of astronomy research and the significant investment the United States is making in Chile,” said Tim Spuck, principal investigator for the ACEAP project and education officer for Associated Universities, Inc. “The Ambassadors visited ALMA in 2015 where they received training on observatory operations, data acquisition and current science taking place at the facility. These experiences were and will be shared broadly with their communities when they return home to the U.S.”

2015 ACEAP ambassadors visiting ALMA where they received training on observatory operations, data acquisition and current science taking place at the facility. Credit: Tim Spuck (AUI)

The 2016 class of ambassadors includes Michelle Ferrara Peterson, program director at AstroCamp in Idyllwild, Calif.; M. Josh Roberts, senior planetarium presenter, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco; Sian Proctor, geology professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Ariz.; William Bogardus, career educator and school administrator at the State University of New York College at Oneonta; Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and director of the Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia; John Blackwell, observatory director and educator in science at Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire; Geneviève de Messières, manager, astronomy education program at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.; David Lockett, elementary school teacher at Mitchell Neilson Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Carmen A. Pantoja, professor of physics at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan.

The Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program is a collaborative project of Associated Universities, Inc., the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Gemini Observatory. It is supported by the National Science Foundation, which operates and supports leading astronomy research facilities in Chile. These observatories, which take advantage of the region’s superb observing conditions, are helping to reshape our understanding of the Cosmos.

2016 class of ACEAP ambassadors prepares for journey to Chile to visit the U.S.-funded observatories there. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

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Additional information

ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.