Editor’s Note: As instructors and students return to campus, we learn about some of their of adventures and accomplishments over the past two months. Here is the first such story. Science instructor Angela Meyer spent 10 days in northern Chile as part of a special team of astronomy educators. One of Meyer’s team members was Matt Dieterich, an astrophotographer, shot the feature photo and posted it on the ACEAP Twitter feed. His website is available here.
Culver Academies science instructor Angela Osterman Meyer, Ph.D., joined nine other astronomy educators from across the United States and Chile to experience first-hand the world-class facilities and unparalleled skies that have made Chile one of the leading locations to study the mysteries of the universe.
Meyer joins a newly assembled team of U.S. and Chilean educators making up the 2017 cohort of the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP), an exciting outreach initiative in its third year funded by the National Science Foundation.
“Now Dr. Meyer will carry this new understanding of the science, technology, and discoveries being made in Chile back to her local community in the U.S.,” said Dr. Tim Spuck, who oversees the program for Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI).
Meyer was chosen through a highly competitive process by leaders in astronomy outreach from across several NSF-funded facilities for her “expertise, and breadth of knowledge across the astronomy education spectrum.”
Made up of teachers, amateur astronomers, planetarium educators, and college professors, the educator ambassadors are now charged with sharing their experiences to build awareness among the public about astronomy, in Chile, and the cutting-edge facilities funded by the NSF that are expanding our understanding of the universe.
“As ACEAP Ambassadors, we leave Chile eager to share incredible observations and resources with our schools and communities while building new collaborations across the country and with Chilean educators. We all share a passion for observing the wonders of our universe and sharing astronomy with others,” Meyer said.
Meyer spent June 17-27 in Chile traveling with the ACEAP team and learning from other scientists and educators affiliated with some of the most powerful observatories on Earth.
Soaking up as much astronomy, education, and culture as possible, Meyer’s adventure included visiting exceptionally equipped tourist observatories such as the Observatorio Astronomico Andino near Santiago and Cerro Mayu located in the mountains outside La Serena. These uniquely Chilean facilities, which play host to amateur astronomers from around the world, seamlessly integrate science, culture and history, and play a vital role in the growing astro-tourism industry in Chile.
Also on her journey, Meyer visited major NSF-funded research observatories including Gemini South, the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA). At each location the ACEAP team met their Chilean counterparts as well as research scientists, engineers, and technicians whose work keeps these observatories running and relevant.
While Meyer had visited CTIO twice previously to collect observations for her doctoral thesis work, the ACEAP experience was an incredible new experience of the southern half of the sky; an experience she found profoundly moving. Each ambassador learned new teaching techniques, cutting-edge science, and ancient sky stories from their guides. Her exposure to the skies, people, and culture of Chile is something Meyer will not soon forget. “I’ll be writing, teaching, speaking about, and learning from this trip for years to come,” she said.
Meyer is already spreading the word on how Chile is one of the astronomy capitals of the world with her postings on social media outlets. She is also laying the foundations for cross-hemisphere networks, and will work with other ambassadors to inspire others in the U.S. to learn more about and perhaps experience Chile for themselves. Spuck is thrilled with the outcome. “The ACEAP Leadership Team could not have chosen a better group to represent this program, and that very much includes Dr. Meyer.”
ACEAP is a collaboration between AUI, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy facilities including the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Gemini, and is supported by the National Science Foundation. More information on ACEAP can be found here.