Watch a G+ hangout of the whole Guinness Book of World Records-breaking outdoor astronomy lesson at South by Southwest! Thanks to Tony Darnell.
We Set a World Record!
We did it! Tonight in Austin, Texas, NASA earned a spot in the Guinness World Records by holding the largest astronomy lesson ever.
We couldn’t have done it without the help of all 526 people who participated in a 30-minute lesson about how astronomers use light and color to study the universe. Together we successfully broke the previous world record set by 458 participants in Mexico in 2011.
Thanks to everyone who showed up and took part!
Below, Drs. Amber Straughn, Jason Kalirai, and Frank Summers talk to the crowd:
Drs. Amber Straughn and Jason Kalirai with the word-record-breaking crowd:
The World’s Biggest Outdoor Astronomy Lesson:
Above images credit: Mike McClare
We did it!
Above: Lesson leaders Dr. Frank Summers and education specialist Dan McCallister raise the Guinness World Records certificate, as a Guinness World Records representative looks on.
Image credit: Alex Evers
A Nobel Laureate Talks to Crowds at South by Southwest
Dr. John Mather, Nobel Laureate in physics, spoke to crowds of people at South by Southwest. He gave two keynote addresses and also spent time answering questions from attendees of a NASA Social that was held Sunday morning at the NASA Experience Tent.
During his talks, Dr. Mather spoke about the many mysteries remaining in astrophysics and how the James Webb Space Telescope will help us to find the first stars and galaxies, unveil newborn solar systems, and find water on other planets outside our solar system. He also said that one of the exciting things that the Webb telescope would do was make unexpected discoveries, and even raise new questions to be answered.
He even made a reference internet meme and SXSW guest, Grumpy Cat, saying, in regards to engineering challenges, “We may not have a grumpy cat but we have to have a grumpy frame of mind to test, test, test and make sure deployments work.”
Dr. Mather has worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center since 1976, building satellites to measure the cosmos. The first one, the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, won Mather a Nobel prize for observing the heat of the early universe in 2006, and the second one, the James Webb Space Telescope, may earn a Nobel prize for some other lucky observer.
Here are a few pics of Dr. Mather talking to South by Southwest attendees in the NASA Experience Tent, signing autographs for fans, and taking questions with Northrop Grumman’s Scott Willoughby after one of his keynotes.
All images, Credit: Alex Evers
Come visit us on Flickr!
We’ve been busy taking photos and documenting our time at South by Southwest! You can see the best of them in our Flickr album - which we’ll keep updating over the next day or so, so please check back!
Here are a few highlights!
Panorama, Credit: Alex Evans
Nobel Laureate John Mather and Northrop Grumman’s Scott Willoughby answer questions about JWST in front of the full-scale model. Credit: Alex Evans
Families learn about JWST. Credit: Chris Gunn
Northrop Grumman’s full-scale model of JWST at night with the Austin skyline in the background. Credit: Chris Gunn
A demonstration of Microsoft’s 30 foot visualization wall in the NASA Experience Tent. Credit: Alex Evers
NASA Social attendees this morning at the full-scale model. Credit: Chris Gunn
Help Us Set a New World Record!
This Sunday evening, NASA will have a new mission. Its goal? To earn a place in the Guinness World Records by holding the largest astronomy lesson ever.
In the 30-minute session, attendees will learn how astronomers use light and color to uncover the secrets of the cosmos, and will try their hand at using those tools themselves.
If you’re in Austin, join NASA on the lawn of the Long Center for the Performing Arts by 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. We’ll need more than 458 participants to break the record set in Mexico in 2011. Be there and be a part of NASA’s record-breaking mission!
NASA Science Interactive Exhibit
Inside the heart of the NASA Experience Tent are interactive displays and amazing facts showcasing NASA science. Visitors are lining up to look at the Dynamic Planet, a digital globe displaying data sets used for interactive instruction, and to search through the surrounding tablet displays letting them explore data.
Ronald Albright, NASA science communication and public engagement specialist, has been working with the crowd to help explain the data sets they’re seeing.
"This is piquing curiosity, and it is expanding the curiosity that kids and adults have," says Albright. "These data sets on the Dynamic Planet are real data sets from all four divisions within the Science Mission Directorate at NASA: Astrophysics, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Earth."
Kimberly Chapman, an Austin native, came with her seven-year-old daughter, Peo Webster, who’s dressed in a lab coat and fully absorbed in the nearby tablet display. Chapman found out about the free event on social media. She says she wasn’t expecting to spend hours here, but has been mostly in the interactive display area.
"This event has turned out to be really good for Peo, she got a pin, she got to play with the thermal camera, but mostly I had no idea she’d just sit here and read," says Chapman. Her daughter has been busy today, measuring the full-scale telescope with a measuring tape and taking copious notes. Peo says she’s planning on being a paleoexobiologist.
"We may have invented this because the other day I talked to my daughter and said we’re going to go to this space thing, but which is better dinosaurs or space. She said both," says Chapman. "She said she wants to find dinosaurs on other planets."
Albright says that the public response has been overwhelming and that visitors are extremely excited to see NASA’s presence in Austin. He says they can explore data visualizations at home by visiting svs.gsfc.nasa.gov.
Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
#JWST #SXSW @ Social Media Table
Arriving at the epicenter of social media inside the NASA tent, the media table is swarmed with people. Visitors are pouring in with questions from the surrounding activity booths. Media representatives are fielding questions while firing away at their computers providing information on the James Webb Space Telescope on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
Lauren Green, corporate manager of Social Media for Northrop Grumman, is taking photos with her phone, interviewing people, posting to social media sites, and talking with the public. She says that people are really interested in the telescope and its capabilities.
"People are just amazed at how large the full-scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope is. What’s unique about this event is that there’s so much going on. You’re a part of the show, it’s about interacting with everyone and talking to people to give them more information," says Green. "I think when people can see something it makes a tremendous difference. It’s one thing to see something on paper about this machine doing this, but seeing something in the full-scale really makes a difference."
Throughout the day they’ve received steady traffic and a lot of questions. Jennifer Bowman, Senior Manager of Communication, Alliant Techsystems Inc., says there’s been a lot of public engagement especially with the social media driven crowd at South by Southwest.
"It’s really exciting; we have a good base and a good topic to be sharing with people," says Bowman. "I think we’ve become a good source destination geographically and on social media."
NASA Mohawk Guy visits Webb
Bobak Ferdowsi, aka Mohawk Guy visits the full-scale model of the Webb Telescope. Bobak is a Systems Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He served on the Cassini–Huygens and Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission. Bobak was part of this morning’s NASA Social meetup.
Image Credit: Chris Gunn/NASA
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of what’s inside the NASA Experience Tent at SXSW. Behind the Webb video series host Mary Estacion is your guide.
JWST in Austin – Day 2
Day 2 of the NASA Experience at South by Southwest started off soggy with light rain, but that didn’t stop the crowds from coming to see the Webb Telescope and getting engaged in astronomy. Science interpreters with umbrellas brought the mission to life, and the public’s interest couldn’t be dampened.
We started the day with a live Google video Hangout bringing together the hosts from CosmoQuest Weekly Space hangouts and Tony Darnell’s Deep Astronomy blog to talk about JWST-themed student projects. Kids from Hutto Middle School and the Khabele School made dioramas of the solar system and even a telescope made out of pasta!
Nobel-prize-winning physicist John Mather stopped by and described some of the exciting discoveries the Webb telescope might make and the perplexing questions it could help astronomers answer. Northrop Grumman engineers explained some of the technical innovations being developed to allow Webb to probe further into the universe than we’ve ever seen before.
It was also a big day for getting the word out about what’s going on here at South by Southwest. We saw reporters from Mashable, Scientific American, HBO Latin America and even a reporter from the Weather Channel. Judging from the posts on Twitter, people here in Austin have been spreading the word about what they’ve seen here. Search twitter for #JWST and #SXSW to see for yourself.
If you’re in Austin but haven’t yet come to see us, don’t miss out on the fun! Visit us on Sunday, anytime from noon to midnight, on the Long Center lawn. After that we close up and leave town.
Image credits: Chris Gunn