Astronomical Society of the Pacific: Sharing the Universe

The Client

The non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is one of the nation’s leading astronomy and space science education organizations.

In cooperation with the National Science Foundation, JPL, and NASA, the Society manages the Night Sky Network, an education program teaches the public about astronomy.

Flying Moose first collaborated with the Astronomical Society by assisting them in writing a grant to fund a series of educational videos. The grant was awarded and we have collaborated with ASP for more than a decade, completing more than thirty video projects for their educational programs. Over four-hundred and fifty astronomy clubs have used our instructional videos to stage more than thirty-five thousand events, reaching nearly four million people.

The Project

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific needed a set of five training videos to motivate and guide the Night Sky Network presenters who volunteer to educate Americans about astronomy. The presenters are astronomers and scientists, not professional speakers, who faced many challenges when addressing the public, including:

  • How to get started with outreach
  • How to say, “I don’t know”
  • Connecting with kids
  • How to handle difficult questions and difficult people.
  • How to engage the audience and get the “Wow!” back in astronomy

The Challenge

The primary challenge was script development. The Society had completed a research project to understand the most pressing concerns of their target audience of astronomers and scientists. We worked closely with our clients, revising the script to select the topics from their outreach curriculum that were most requested by the audience and that would most benefit from a training video presentation.

Our Work

We selected a humorous approach for engaging our audience and allow them to laugh at their own past mistakes when presenting to the public.

We wrote and developed five scripts using techniques from our story development process, including reviewing our client’s needs, writing several drafts of the scripts, rehearsing with professional actors and presenting a staged reading to a live audience. Critiques from the reading were used to revise the script.

Although it was not the case in the production of these outreach videos, we have often produced “Beta” videos for the Astronomical Society. These are economically produced, rapidly finished test versions that can be distributed to a focus group of astronomers for comment and revision.
The final training videos incorporated “right way” and “wrong way” skits to illustrate key communication concepts. We shot the 5 videos in a single day of production, on location, at the Chabot Space and Science Center.

The Result

The Sharing the Universe videos have been distributed to more than 400 astronomy clubs throughout the United States. The astronomers who studied our training videos have initiated more than 28,000 public astronomy events, reaching more than 3 million people.