WCA Outreach 2023: By the numbers

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Poster summarising outreach in the WCA for 2023. Text states: 74 Astro-Bubble shows presented to 1727 people at 14 schools, 12 public events for 990 attendees, 11 grad student/postdoc volunteers, 759 social media followers (431 on Instagram, 328 on Twitter/X).

2023 was a big year for outreach in the WCA! 

In the last year we've expanded our astronomy outreach program into several new areas. We've run:

  • 74 planetarium shows with our new Astro-Bubble, reaching 1727 people including students at 14 local schools. 
  • 12 public events, including public talks, Astronomy on Tap, and stargazing nights
  • Gained 759 followers on our new social media pages (@uwaterlooastro on Instagram and Twitter/X). 
  • Recruited 11 WCA graduate students and postdocs to help run our outreach efforts -- we couldn't do it without them! 


Photograph of the inside of the Astro-Bubble, showing movement of stars across the sky
Photo of people entering the Astro-Bubble dome

The centrepiece of the WCA's outreach is the Astro-Bubble, our portable, inflatable planetarium. Throughout 2023 we visited schools in the local area, and welcomed them on-campus during the Physics Lab Days in April and December.

We also ran planetarium shows for Scouts, Guides, and Canadian Association for Girls In Science (CAGIS) groups, as well as taking part in the PhysiX: Girls Matter event, encouraging young women to pursue physics and astronomy. You can get in touch to request an Astro-Bubble event -- we're always looking for opportunities to share the Astro-Bubble with new groups of young people who are keen to learn about the Universe!

WCA-KPL Seminar Series

Will Percival speaking about the Euclid mission at KPL

In May we launched a new monthly series of public astronomy seminars at Kitchener Public Library, with Will Percival, Director of the WCA, speaking about how the newly launched Euclid mission is going to help us explore the dark Universe.

Nearly 400 people attended the six events we ran in 2023, to hear a mixture of faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students share the world-leading astronomy research taking place in Waterloo, covering topics including general relativity, black holes, and the evolution of galaxies. 

This series is continuing into 2024. We're particularly excited to hear the Chair of Physics, Brian McNamara, speak about active galactic nuclei, and also for some special seminars around the April 2024 solar eclipse. Look out for more information!

Astronomy on Tap

Astronomy on Tap KW logo

May 2023 also saw the launch of Astronomy on Tap: Kitchener-Waterloo. Astronomy on Tap is a worldwide series of astronomy-related talks that involve sharing astronomy in a different, informal way, by taking place in the comfort of a pub!

More than 250 people attended our five events in 2023, and feedback from attendees was very positive! We have more AoT events planned for 2024, with our first one taking place in February.

Other highlights...

In August we hosted a huge stargazing party on campus for the Perseids meteor shower, which featured a lecture on extra-terrestrial life and some great telescopes courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Astronomy Club, although the cloudy conditions made stargazing somewhat challenging!

The Astro-Bubble also made an appearance at the Kids' Science Open House in October. In case you missed it, the Open House takes place every year, and is a must for any young science enthusiasts!

We have big plans for 2024! Stay up-to-date with our outreach activities through our Instagram and Twitter/X pages.