From the planetarium to the moon

As the pandemic enters the liminal space of being politically over yet scientifically very much in progress, The Manitoba Museum continues its free and accessible online programming.

The Planetarium’s [email protected] online program will continue its weekly series for the foreseeable future, even with the possibility of a return to in-person events.

Host of [email protected] is Manitoba Museum Planetarium Astronomer Scott Young, who set up the live online show when the planetarium first closed in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic -19.

“We kind of talk about what’s going on in the sky, where the planets are, and all kinds of celestial events that are happening,” Young said of the show.

“We also talk about everything that happens in space, [like] Martian landers, or rocket launches or things like that, International Space Station stuff. And as the show kind of evolved, we added subjects.

Broadcast on the museum’s Facebook and YouTube pages, all shows are interactive. In fact, [email protected] has since become “kind of like a late-night talk show where you kind of have either a guest or a subject.”

Since [email protected] is a live broadcast, there are “lots of people in the chat asking a variety of questions about astronomy and other related types of things”.

“And so, it’s become this kind of back and forth with the audience that’s really fun,” Young said.

“It builds this community. We have a hundred people who watch every show live, of which, you know, I know half of them by name, and they come to our regular programs and sign up for our classes and donate to the charity and things like that.

What’s important to Young about the program is how it uses such an accessible field of science as astronomy to build a pro-science community.

“Astronomy is a bit like a gateway science because […] [people] just think of the beauty and the artistry and the jaw-dropping part of it,” Young said. “We appeal to people with cool astronomy and if that makes them a little more comfortable with science in general, that’s huge.”

As for the aforementioned theme nights, [email protected] is set to cover light pollution for Earth Hour in an “awareness piece” for people to notice how their own activities affect the world around them.

“To get people to realize how much light we waste in terms of unnecessary lighting at night – light that shines in the sky instead of falling on the ground – and of course the associated energy costs,” said Young. “It’s an astronomy problem because astronomers of course have a hard time seeing with all the lights in the city.”

In Canada, billions of dollars are spent on electricity and they are used to power light “that does nothing at all”.

“It doesn’t hit the ground and light things up, it just goes straight up into the sky and bounces off the bird background and the airplane background and that’s it,” Young said. “It’s totally wasted energy.”

For those discovering [email protected] for the first time, all past broadcasts are available in full on the museum’s YouTube channel.

The shows are replete with references to current events and popular culture “from Star Trek to Elon Musk’s satellites.”

In particular, Young is passionate about the program due to the accessibility of astronomy.

“The best thing about astronomy is that it’s an accessible science,” Young said.

“You can go out and look at the stars and make discoveries. It doesn’t matter if someone else discovered the same thing 400 years ago – when you discover it, it still feels like a discovery.

And if you don’t have access to binoculars or telescopes, the program has you covered for upcoming celestial events.

“With [email protected], when there’s something cool coming up, we’ll do live telescope viewings, which is what we’ve done online so far,” Young said.

“The next one will probably be in May for the total lunar eclipse.”

Surprisingly, “if [the pandemic] calmed down [enough] that we can actually put telescopes in the park somewhere, we will,” Young said.

But for those still worried about getting out, the Planetarium will “stream it online anyway”, meaning no one will miss what [email protected] has to offer.

For more information on [email protected], visit manitobamuseum.ca.

Arline J. Mercier