“I am constantly on the lookout for new locations for the pillars”
In communication and in outreach, we are always confronted with one challenging question: How do we reach new audiences that have never heard of us before? One of the media that carries the content and messages of NCCR PlanetS to the outside world are the 10 exoplanet pillars – 5 German versions, 3 English versions and 2 French versions.
When Guido Schwarz, responsible for the project, delivers an exoplanet pillar, he describes it as free fitness training. “The pillars are 2.6 m high and weigh around 25 kilograms. Lifting them out of the specially made transport box is a short but exhausting feat of strength. I’m glad if two people help me on the spot, because I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.” When the pillar is unpacked, Schwarz screws on a heavy metal base plate. “This ensures that the pillar stands safely.” Then all you have to do is plug in the cable and the starting program of the pillar starts automatically. And the audience can already explore the contents.
Guido Schwarz developed and produced them together with Raumprodukt. Around the pillar there are short texts about exoplanets and the NCCR PlanetS. Three different videos can be viewed on one screen; the sound can be heard in the connected one-hand receiver. There are also two stereo viewers on which two 3D images can be seen. The NCCR PlanetS lends the pillars for free to museums, schools, shopping centers etc.
Since the first pillars were delivered in March 2016, we had them on display at more than 15 locations in German-speaking Switzerland, where they inspire the audience. All venues have expressed very positive opinions about the exoplanet pillars and recommend it to others. Thomas Baer from the Bülach Observatory praised the pillar: “There were always interesting and exciting discussions! The visitors wanted to know more about CHEOPS and the exoplanets.”
Guido Schwarz is constantly on the lookout for new locations. “We want to reach as broad an audience as possible. Therefore, it is important to me to find places in all parts of the country.” While at the beginning, the pillars were mainly set up in museums and universities, the demand for cantonal schools is increasing.
A few days ago, for example, Guido Schwarz disassembled one of the pillars in the Kantonsschule Glarus, which was set up there for a year. One day later, he installed the pillar at the Kantonsschule am Burggraben in St. Gallen. “It is important that I check that everything is working properly when I set it up. So far we have only had a few repairs, which surprises me with the heavy use of the pillars.”
Schwarz is particularly pleased when he notices how the pillars are taken over by the audience after they have been installed. “Here in St. Gallen, it didn’t take 30 seconds for the pillar to be surrounded by students. In such moments, I know that we reach a few more people with our topic.”
More information on the pillars and an online booking form can be found at http://nccr-planets.ch/exoplanet-pillar