Respected astronomy educator offers support for planetarium project


Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3H4

Professor John R. Percy

Email: john.percy©utoronto.ca

24 October, 2013

Randy Attwood

President: Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Foundation

Dear Randy,

I'm delighted to support the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Foundation, and its proposal for a planetarium and astronomy/space science centre in the western GTA. I've been a professional astronomer and educator in the western GTA for 46 years (a co-founder of the University of Toronto Mississauga: UTM) and have always promoted the importance of such a facility. It would be a natural addition to the western GTA, with its population of over a million, its high-tech industry, and its other educational and cultural facilities. I have a long-standing interest in facilities of this kind — I was Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre for six years in the 1990s.

Toronto is one of the few major cities without an astronomy/space science centre. Sadly, the McLaughlin Planetarium closed in the 1990s, as an unnecessary result of uncertainty in government funding. The planetarium was actually very successful, both in terms of the quality and variety of its programming, and its large audience. And that was before astronomy/space became a compulsory topic in the elementary and secondary school science curriculum! Few schoolteachers have any background in astronomy, and astronomy teaching. An astronomy/space centre could provide the programs and resources which they desperately need. The Science Teachers Association of Ontario tells me that astronomy/space, optics, and climate change are the three topics for which teachers most often ask for professional development. Your facility could serve the needs of some of the largest school boards in Canada.

There is a large and growing public interest in astronomy and space, as we found out during International Year of Astronomy 2009, which attracted almost two million people to over 3,600 events across the country. Attendance at Canadian planetariums, and member­ship in public astronomy organizations such as the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) continue to be strong. The RASC would be a natural supporting partner for your project; it was a 2003 winner of the prestigious national Michael Smith Award for outstanding contributions to science outreach.

There is a misconception that science centres are of interest only to children. This is not so. Surveys in both Canada and Europe have shown that public interest in science is high, and comparable with public interest in politics, sports, and culture. An especially receptive audience for science outreach is retired people — a growing demographic. It is easy to attract audiences of 200 or more, in later-life learning groups, for presentations on astronomy/space. Furthermore, there is a growing "citizen science" movement, whereby members of the general public can contribute meaningfully to scientific research. This movement is well-established in astronomy. With the western GTA's strong technology base, and the increasing number of well-educated individuals (including retirees), this could be one focus for your facility. Such people could also make a significant contribution to public and school science education and outreach, as members of the RASC already do.

I can envision several possible linkages between your project, and the professional as­tronomical community in the GTA — the largest in Canada. We have dozens of senior undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are committed to public outreach, and who could participate in astronomy research and outreach programs and internships at your facility. In the past, they have contributed to outreach through national programs such as Let's Talk Science and ACTUA. There is a growing Community Service Learning movement at the University of Toronto, which could partner with your facility, or jointly with your very successful partnership with The Riverwood Conservancy. I note that you recently won one of their volunteer awards!

I and my colleagues in astronomy at the University of Toronto would be natural and willing partners in your project. I suspect that the astronomy group at York University would be equally supportive. I cheerfully give you my endorsement and support.

Yours sincerely,

John R. Percy

Professor Emeritus: Astronomy & Astrophysics Professor Emeritus: Science Education

John Percy is Professor Emeritus, Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Science Education, at the University of Toronto. His awards include an inaugural University of Toronto President's Teaching Award, the inaugural 2012 Qilak Award of the Canadian Astronomical Society, for astronomy communication, and the 2013 Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society.

 

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Mississauga School Trustee Supports Planetarium Project

Who isn't fascinated by the stars in the sky, the possibility of life on other planets, the excitement of imagining yourself discovering the world of space?

Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization is asking for your support, small or large, to help buy a Planetarium for Mississauga. How cool would that be?

Thanks to Earthshine and with the help of your donation, we all may be able to enjoy, explore, study and learn the exciting world of Space. 

This not for profit organization will issue tax receipts for donations made to this extraordinary project. 

Earthshine presents information sessions at Mississauga libraries now, and  plans on providing astronomy and space science programs for Peel families and student groups. 

From the Planetarium, Earthshine volunteers and staff will be able to show the sky from anywhere at any time, but will also be able to take the audience on virtual trips through the solar system and out amongst the stars!

Students and teachers will be able to learn about the universe in a real way as they watch programs tailored to meet the provincial curriculum. This exciting facility will be open to families as well - what a great week-end adventure. 

Please donate what you can @: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/what-s-that-star-called-a-planetarium-for-the-western-gta/x/4711087

For further information please visit www.earthshineastronomy.ca 

Sue Lawton, Trustee

Peel District School Board

Wards 3 and 4

susan.lawton@peelsb.com

 

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Mississauga Councillor Katie Mahoney Supports Planetarium Project

Randy Attwood, President

The Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization 4348 Dallas Court

Mississauga ON L4W 4G7

Dear Mr. Attwood:

Please accept my best wishes and congratulations to The Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization a Mississauga based not-for­profit charity in their undertaking and campaign to promote astronomy and space science education to the public.

I wish you good luck in all your endeavours and in particular your efforts in finding a home for a science education facility to run your programs.

Yours truly,

Katie Mahoney Councillor, Ward 8

 

 Credit: Mississauga Life

Credit: Mississauga Life

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Bob McDonald of CBC's Quirks and Quarks Supports Mississauga Planetarium Project

Toronto is the only major centre in North America without a full scale planetarium.

That’s unfortunate because for most of the city, the stars are virtually invisible at night thanks to air and light pollution, which means most young people living in urban areas have never seen what the universe really looks like.  The Earthshine Astronomy Space Science Organization is attempting to remedy that, starting out with a small portable planetarium that could, with the right support,  blossom into a full blown state of the art facility capable of revealing the wonders of the universe that hang over our heads every night.

If you haven’t been to a planetarium recently, the technology has evolved far beyond a representation of the stars against a black sky as they would appear from a wilderness park.  A new generation of high definition digital projectors turn the dome of a planetarium into a 360 degree nosecone of a spaceship, transporting audiences through the universe at the speed of a thought.   Pick a shimmering dot in the sky, then zoom out to it, discover it’s a planet, fly around it then land on the surface. This is not a movie. The audience choses where to go, right out to the edge of the universe,  guided by the planetarium operator.

The infinite flexibility of digital technology can also turn the dome into a submarine exploring the wonders of a coral reef or a time machine that takes you back to a Jurassic forest and the giant creatures hiding among the brushes.  A modern planetarium is a powerful teaching tool that brings the universe to life in a totally engrossing, entertaining way.

With so much talk about global environmental issues, we often forget that the Earth is part of a much larger context, where it is only one relatively small planet among billions of others that are very, very different. Those other worlds are natural laboratories that tell us how planets evolve and change over time, providing insight to the changes we are imposing through human activity. In other words, learning about what is out in space, also teaches us about the ground beneath our feet.

The Toronto area needs a planetarium.  Let’s put this city on the star map.

Bob McDonald, OC

Host, Quirks & Quarks, CBC

 

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University of Toronto (Mississauga) Professor Supports Planetarium Project

October 11, 2013

Randy Attwood

Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization

Dear Mr. Attwood:

I very much enjoyed sharing your inspirational plans to develop a multi-purpose planetarium and science facility in the Region of Peel for the Greater Toronto Area with the senior administration of the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). This inspired agenda has been in place for some years, and I am very pleased to see efforts being made to move the program another step forward by means of development of a smaller scale facility. This phased approach will generate interest, confirm interest and demonstrate the potential to create a larger permanent facility.

The closing of the McLaughlin Planetarium in 1995 was a significant loss for the GTA in terms of a resource that stimulated interest and education in science for a broad range of participants. I am aware of the significant popular demand there had been for the McLaughlin Planetarium, and as an educator I know that this facility presented excellent opportunity for encouragement of interest in science. I was amazed when no group stepped up to fill the void, and suspect that it was the limitations of technology of the day, and the decline in the competitive “space race” that played significant roles in the decision to close the facility. Clearly, many other urban centres have flourishing planetariums – this is not a question of numbers of people in the community, but rather one of offering stimulating programming of value. I commend you and your colleagues for mounting this initiative to create a facility to promote astronomy and space sciences in our community. It is good to see this happening as you build upon your success in reaching thousands in the public with your “star parties” and educational programming.

The question of our place in the Universe is fundamental to most every culture, and the consequential outcomes of space science technology across the life and physical sciences, medicine and engineering have impacted the entire world. It is amazing how much for granted we take the weather forecasts from satellites, our global communications connectivity, and simply knowing how to get from point A to B by accessing geopositioning satellites; typically without ever thinking of how these technologies operate or came to be, or the rich tapestry of careers and the economic impact that are tied to these technologies.

The vision of a facility that will offer integration of astronomy with the exploration of space, and the development of related technology, has the potential to integrate the sciences in a manner that is much superior to the programming that was offered at the McLaughlin Planetarium. The emphasis on integration of astronomy, physics, mathematics, engineering, chemistry and biology reflects the present integrated conceptual approach to teaching of modern sciences, and the applications themes will resonate with participants in a way that is never achieved through presentations that rely on the theories of single subjects.

There are a number of members of the faculty at UTM, and also graduate and undergraduate students, who will be quite interested to participate to develop and deliver programming. In fact, some of our faculty and students have interactions with galleries and museums to create digital multi-media programming for the public in other venues. I also note that the Economic Development Office of the City of Mississauga identifies aerospace engineering and related technologies as a major industry cluster in the region. There will be numerous regional industries across the GTA that will have interest in the space science theme, and also from the perspective of imaging, computational and visualization technologies.

I personally stand ready to help this initiative network with members of our community so that partnerships can be explored.

Yours sincerely,

Ulrich J. Krull, 

Professor of Analytical Chemistry, and AstraZeneca Chair in Biotechnology 

Vice-Principal: Special Initiatives

University of Toronto Mississauga

3359 Mississauga Road

Mississauga, ON

Canada L5L 1C6

Bus: 905-828-5437

Fax: 905-569-4388

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Mississauga Councillor George Carlson Supports Planetarium Project

George Carlson

Councillor Ward 11

16 September, 2013

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to provide a letter in support of the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization's (EASSO) efforts to obtain a mobile digital planetarium and run public planetarium programs in the City of Mississauga.

For several years now, the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization has been doing excellent work in our City, through the creation and delivery of various astronomy and space science education programs. As a non-profit charitable organization, Earthshine develops and runs astronomy education and public outreach programs in Mississauga and the western GTA. Earthshine's vision is to build and operate a state-of-the-art Planetarium and Space Discovery Centre in the western GTA.

Since 2009, Earthshine has run a successful astronomy program at Riverwood Park in Mississauga, in partnership with The Riverwood Conservancy (TRC) and the Mississauga  Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). Through this program, members of the public are able to look at the Moon, planets, stars, and other objects visible from our City through the RASC's telescopes. Thus far, over 3000 members of the public have participated in evening astronomy lectures and "star parties."

Earthshine's educational public outreach program will be greatly enhanced and expanded through the acquisition of a mobile digital planetarium, which can be used day or night, rain or shine. The planetarium offers a way to simulate the motions of the night sky and is a great tool that can be used in teaching astronomy concepts. It can also be used to show young people, who have never been away from city lights, how beautiful the night sky can be!

Please consider supporting Earthshine's efforts to obtain a mobile digital planetarium and enhance astronomy and space science education in our City. For more information about how to support this great program, please visit vvvvw.earthshineastronomy.ca. Thank you for your time and consideration, and don't forget to reach for the stars!

Sincerely,

George Carlson Councillor, Ward 11

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