When science meets fiction
The NCCR PlanetS has been participating to several public events since its creation. Amongst them, there is one which has been recurrent, and this year was no exception… It is not the most obvious one to go to, but over the years, it has established itself as a landmark as it has always been a success, and this year was again: no exception, as it will last in memories! I’m talking about the Fantasy Basel, the Swiss Comic-Con, which was held at the Messe Basel from the 3rd of May to the 5th of May 2019.
This year, the stand was big: 600 square meters, and done in collaboration with the Swiss Space Museum. Most of the stand was actually filled with the roadshow exhibition Lift Off to Space from the museum, and sponsored by the NCCR PlanetS. Eight pods led the visitor through the history of the conquest of space: from the first concept in the imagination of scientist and science-fiction authors, to the discovery of exoplanets, passing by the solar system, its exploration, the space race or the Moon landing! But that was not all! Around 20 PlanetS members and associates took turns to discuss with the public and explain what we had brought with us, such as:
- a spectroscopy experiment.
- 3D pictures of Mars taken by the CaSSIS camera on-board TGO, and developed at the University of Bern.
- a collection of meteorites, including a martian one.
- a model of the exoplanetary system Trappist-1.
- CHEOPS half-scale model and some clean-room suits.
Once again, we also took the opportunity to deliver a series of mini-talks to the 54’000 visitors who attended the event over the 3 days. The crowd was diverse: from the student in love with astronomy, to the younglings with their parents, passing by cosplayers happily surprised to meet real science in an event dedicated to fiction. The mini-talks covered many topics related to space and astrophysics, here is a summary:
Finally, this year we also had the opportunity to deliver speeches about astrophysics during 2 panels on stage, each attended by over 100 people. The first one on the Friday was about the exploration of the Solar system and international collaboration. Along a discussion led by Guido Schwarz, Prof. Dr. Nicolas Thomas from the NCCR PlanetS/University of Bern talked about Mars and its exploration, and was joined by Ulrich Kübler, Airbus, who gave us the keys for rocket launch and Tanya G. Ward from the US embassy in Bern, who gave us a reminder of the story of the moon landing and the experiment from the University of Bern, on-board Apollo 11. On the second day, Thibaut Roger moderated a discussion regarding exoplanets, how to find them (and how can the public help us thanks to the project Discovery on the video game EVE Online), how do they form, what is their interest in regards to the Solar system and its understanding, and the question of life elsewhere. To answer all those questions, three Professors from PlanetS joined him, from the universities of Zürich, Bern and Geneva: Ravit Helled, Christoph Mordasini and Stéphane Udry.
Finally, if you would like to see more pictures of the event, you can consult our gallery.