365daysDate: July 3, 2009

Title: Universe Awareness: Children’s Voices


Podcaster: Carolina Ödman

Organization: Universe Awareness (UNAWE) http://www.unawe.org/

Description: Universe Awareness (UNAWE) is the only IYA2009 cornerstone project specifically for children. UNAWE started in 2005 and has now active groups in nearly 30 countries. The programme will continue beyond 2009. If you are interested in joining UNAWE, contact us at carolina.odman@unawe.org or check out our website http://www.unawe.org/.

Bio: Carolina Ödman is the international project manager of Universe Awareness. She studied Physics Engineering in Switzerland and completed her PhD in cosmology at the University of Cambridge in 2003. After working as a consultant at UNESCO and a brief lecture round at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), she joined the University or Rome La Sapienza for a post-doc. Since 2005 she works at Leiden Observatory.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Palomar Observatory.

When was the last time you looked up at the night sky and were caught by surprise by its beauty? Do you remember the first time that you saw a real photograph of planet earth taken from space, and what it made you feel? Have you ever been in a completely isolated landscape, in a field, in a desert, on top of a mountain, where the only thing you can see at night is the stars – and it makes you feel so close to them that it feels like you’re floating out in space with them? Well, you are.

The realisation of our place in the universe is a wonderful and humbling experience that brings us to a peaceful contemplation of ourselves and our lives and that brings all the worries and the concerns into perspective. “Does it really matter?” we ask ourselves, as the beauty of the night sky unravels before our eyes.

When they proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy the United Nations made a very strong statement. The UN affirmed that astronomy, often seen as an expensive science, with pretty pictures but little everyday impact, is in fact much more. The UN elevated astronomy to the rank of world changing discipline that contributes directly to all mankind through education, sustainable development, environmental awareness, technological development and last but not least, the expansion of human knowledge and exploration. It’s our delightful mission to seize this opportunity and make sure that the UN was right in its vision.

In today’s podcast we are lucky to have some children who share their stories about the universe with us. They may have preconceptions, or ill-conceived or ill-understood ideas, but that doesn’t matter, because when they are thinking about the universe, when the children are learning astronomy, they’re exploring with their curious and inquisitive and imaginative minds something that is greater than what anyone of us will ever be able to fully understand and comprehend.

So here are some children’s voices, for and on behalf of Universe Awareness.

[Interview of a young child in Tamil (India):
…K. chandru … airplanes … natchattiram … Bhooma devi …]

When asked what he thinks of the Universe, K. Chandru in Tamil Nadu, India, first thinks of airplanes. And then he thinks of stars, and the third thing he can think of is the Earth god(*). What do you think?

(*) It is in fact an earth goddess

[Interview in English (India):
The Universe is a vast area, infinite in volume. It consists of 9 planets, the sun and other galaxies. Earth is the only planet in the universe, which has life, oxygen, atmosphere, water. ….]

This young man has obviously learnt a lot at school and he knows a lot about the universe but have you noticed how the Earth remains a very special place?

[Game with young children repeating the names of the planets (Kenya):
…Mercury … Venus … Earth … Mars! … Mercury … Venus … Earth … Mars!…]

[Game with young children playing the dance of the planets (Venezuela):
Mercurio! … No andre vez… La tierra … Marte …. Jupiter … Saturno!]

[Talking about the planets in Arabic (Tunisia):
…Venus … Aard … Merrich … Mouchtery … Zouhal … Uranus … Neptune … Pluton. Pluton ….]

(The sound from the astronomy lesson in Tunisia fades into the background)

Planet Earth, a very special place indeed. A place where people around the world show children the beauty of the universe and when they do, this happens

[Astronomy lesson continued (Tunisia):

[Astronomy workshop (South Africa):
we live on a planet…
This is home! This planet is home and this is home!]

[Astronomy workshop. A rhyming song where children repeat the following (South Africa):
In the Big Universe
There are lots of galaxies
In every galaxy
There are lots and lots of stars!
One little star
We call our sun!
Our home
Is on a planet
That goes around the sun!
We call it planet Earth
In the big Universe…](*)

(*) This rhyming song can be found on the UNAWe website at:

And that’s it for today’s episode.
In this episode were featured young children from universe Awareness programmes in India, Venezuela, Tunisia, South Africa and Kenya.

The featured music was first Clair de Lune by Debussy played by Simionescu, followed by the first piece for children by Bartok played by Breemer, both courtesy of the PianoSociety.org. Followed by Pachelbel’s canon in D, interpreted on the harp by Andrea Steckermeier-Thiele, courtesy of ClassicCat.com. A couple of sound effects are courtesy of soundjay.com

Thank you and we look forward to joining you again for the next Universe Awareness episode of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.