Aurora Explorer - on tour!

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


The main aims:
1. To exhibit the 'Cluster: Aurora Explorer' Exhibition at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June 2012 and at the
British Science Festival in Aberdeen in September 2012.
2. To inspire, enthuse and educate the general public, families and pupils about the Earth's near-space environment using
the Cluster space mission and the Planeterrella as 'inspirational hooks'.
3. To present the latest scientific discoveries from the Cluster space mission to a wide general audience.
4. To encourage a dialogue between scientists and the general public.
5. To engage with the Amateur Astronomy community, commencing scientific diaolgues on topics such as magnetospheric and
auroral physics.

In 2011 the 'Cluster: Aurora Explorer' exhibit was successfully presented at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition (RSSE) to an
audience number of ~14000 people. The exhibit celebrated 10 years of the Cluster space mission, and engaged the public in the importance of space weather and auroral physics through a wide and extensive exhibit from six different institutes.
Our key messages were:
1. We live in a protective magnetosphere - a magnetic shield that protects us and our technology from dangerous solar particle radiation
2. UK instruments are flying on the four European spacecraft thatmake up the European Space Agency's Cluster Mission
3. We are using those spacecraft to investigate the physics behind the beautiful Aurora - the northern and southern lights.
In learning about the magnetosphere, Cluster and the Aurora, visitors also learnt about electricity and magnetism, the workings of the Solar system and how these have an effect on our lives.

We have been successful in our bid to exhibit the 'Cluster: Aurora Explorer' at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June 2012 and
at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen in September 2012. The Cheltenham Science Festival is one Britain's largest science
festival with over 30000 tickets sold last year. The British Science Festival is one of Europe's largest celebrations of science,
technology and engineering. Last year approximately 15000 people visited this festival. 'Cluster: Aurora Explorer - on tour!' is
a fantastic opportunity to share our science with a potential audience of tens of thousands . Our exhibit is especially relevant this
year, as solar activity is increasing and the aurora was visible from Scotland early in 2012. Furthermore at the British Science
Festival our exhibit will be colocated with the annual conference of the British Astronomical Association giving us the
opportunity to engage directly with the amateur astronomy community.

As part of the exhibition we wish to present the 'Planeterrella', which has been funded and supported by two STFC small awards.
The Planeterrella is a unique scientific experiment which reproduces the aurora in a laboratory vacuum chamber and also
demonstrates how magnetized stars and planets interact with each other. The Planeterrella is the only one of its kind in the UK
and so allows visitors to view a unique experiment. We will also be exhibiting unique, interactive, electromagnetic and mechanical
magnetopsheres, commissioned especially for the RSSE and displaying specially commissioned movies and animations of the
Cluster mission and auroral physics will be played. These movies were made by our team for the Royal Society Summer
Exhibiton and are so good they will be used by European Space Agency on their stand at the EGU meeting in Vienna this year.

We hereby apply for funds to cover the cost of exhibiting 'Cluster: Aurora Explorer' at the Cheltenham Science Festival and the
British Science Festival in Aberdeen. A great deal of time, effort and funds, were associated with preparing the original exhibit,
thus re-exhibiting in Cheltenham and Aberdeen will be a way of maximising the return on last years investments providing an extremely cost-effective way of presenting our science to an extensive audience.

Planned Impact

The Aurora Explorer material will be shown by ESA at the EGU general assembly, Europe's largest geophysics meeting. The
Chelthenham Science Festival and the British Science Festival are well-attended by science communicators and educators, so
attending these festivals will be an excellent opportunity for us to engage with them directly.


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