Date: September 20, 2010

Title: Citizen Outreach in Astronomy


Podcaster: BOINC SETI Chile


Description: We define “citizen outreach in astronomy” as the way that common people can do science outreach to general public, using modern technology that is accessible to almost everybody.

There are different ways of doing citizen outreach in astronomy, in our case at, we translate into Spanish articles about astronomy, citizen science and critical thinking, and publish them in our website.

Citizen outreach in astronomy is important because we need science to survive in our modern world. Science gives us the tools to understand our origins, our place in the cosmos and the means to build a better future.

Bio: Tiare Rivera: Attracted by astronomy at an early age, she became the founder of, wanting to inspire and educate new generations, by giving them access to SETI, astronomy and scientific information translated into Spanish.

Lourdes Cahuich: Computer Engineer, graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, with a Master of Telecommunication’s Administration. Currently professor of computer and collaborator / translator volunteer in several astronomical sites and scientific outreach websites. Translator and columnist for since 2009.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Keith Brandt – physician, amateur astronomer, and all-around science geek, and is dedicated to his wife Melinda Kaye – my sun, moon, and stars. Thank you for more than a quarter century of heavenly companionship. Happy Birthday!


Tiare (TR): My name is Tiare Rivera and I’m the founder and also translator of, a website project from 2008.

Lourdes (LC): My name is Lourdes Cahuich and I am a translator and columnist for since 2009.

LC: In this podcast we’ll talk about “citizen outreach in astronomy”, defining it as the way that common people, like you and me, can do science outreach directly to general public, using modern technology that is accessible to almost everybody.

So you don’t need to have a fancy college degree or have a PhD. to actually do science outreach. All you need is the will to actively do something to bring science to everyone interested.

There are different ways of doing citizen outreach in astronomy, in our case, at, we translate into Spanish articles about astronomy, citizen science and critical thinking, and publish them in our website, reaching hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America and Spain. People in Latin America are getting interested in our purpose and vision, so they have join us on this adventure by becoming volunteer translators, helping us to increase the content in our website.

Some people with more knowledge on the subject give talks using the information acquired from the astronomy articles and news and years of amateur studies. Other people organize meetings at restaurants or bars, in which they have special guests to talk about science topics and skepticism (these are called “skeptics in the pub” and they are becoming very popular).

LC: How can I help?

TR: An important aspect of citizen outreach is to invite people to become citizen scientists, Yes! you can help directly to scientific investigations thanks to an Internet connection and using a special free software that runs at your computer’s idle time.

You can use your computer’s free time to use a software called BOINC, where you can help to find radio signatures from extraterrestrial intelligence by using seti@home, or help to find new medicines and treatments for humanity worst enemies, such as Cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer or Malaria. How about the understanding of climate change? Well, you can help with Climate to test several climate models and help scientists to describe our climate in the future.

There is also a way to help more directly, by classifying galaxies or finding craters on mars or the moon, everything online on Galaxyzoo or Be a Martian from NASA. Spanish readers can find more information about all these projects on our website.

LC: Why is science important?

TR: Science teach us to wonder about nature, society and it reveals the functioning of everything that exists in our daily lives helping us to create new knowledge and therefore new technology.

In the past, kids used to spend their free time around nature, playing in their backyards or using their imagination with a few simple toys or creating their own games. Nowadays, kids play with computers, cellphones, video games staying inside their homes. The consequence is not having scientific curiosity at an early age and children end up with an idea of science as a distant activity, only dedicated to “strange people”…..

As you can see, science is part of our daily lives, from cooking to recycling and to even understand the weather report or how to read a map or use a computer. If you help young people to observe, obtain evidence and generate conclusions with patience, it will help them to improve their way of thinking about the ideas and events around them everyday.

TR: Do you prefer a story?

LC:I would like to talk to you about my own experience, I don’t have a special background in astronomy or science, I am a computer engineer that fell in love with astronomy as a teenager. A few years ago I wanted to be actively involved with public outreach and share the love I feel for astronomy with the world around me, especially to children.

I asked myself how I could better accomplish this task and I realized that I already had the basic elements for achieving my goal:
• A computer
• Internet connection
• Some free time
• The will to actually start the project

I then did some research on the web to find out how to explain basic principles of astronomy to children. I wanted to some how link their everyday experiences to simple concepts such as: how day and night unfold, what the celestial bodies are—namely the Sun, the Moon, planets and stars—and finally, how our surroundings relate to all these.

When I was ready to talk about the basic principles I went to a preschool near home and I presented myself to the preschool headmistress and talked with her about this project. I asked her for permission to give these talks to her students and I am forever thankful to her for allowing me to give these talks. By doing so I felt I was very much rewarded for my efforts because I had an unforgettable experience when I saw the wonderful expressions of awe on children’s little faces as they began to understand that they are part of the Universe.

You don’t have to be an expert neither in astronomy, science, nor in any other field to make a change and do something wonderful in our communities: Share your telescope, talk to kids, make them wonder about our planet and our existence, we can all spread the seed of curiosity and knowledge about the universe we live in, among others. Anyone of us can become a source of inspiration to future scientists, engineers or astronomers if only we put our minds to it and just go ahead and do it.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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