Stars 'r' Us! started out as a collaboration between UK university-based researchers at the Open University, University College London and the University of Nottingham with colleagues from the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Stars 'r' Us! was developed in 2003 and operated for the the first times as a public engagement exhibit in Astrochemistry at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition in July 2004, which showcased the best of scientific research across the UK. The week long event was busy but rewarding for both us and those school children, students, members of the general public and scientists were able to visit our exhibit, discuss its content and interact with scientific research in action. Indeed Stars 'r' Us! proved to be amongst the most popular exhibits at the event, especially with children. Our appearance at the 2004 Royal Society Summer Exhibition was featured in the house magazine of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astronomy and Geophysics, and the article "The Making of Stars 'r' Us!" can be download from here as a PDF file. You can see some pictures of us at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition here.
Stars 'r' Us! was founded with the intention of taking our science to the public; of explaining the how, what and where of Astrochemistry. As such Stars 'r' Us! was not founded as a one-off activity but as an on-going project. Therefore we have made every effort to exhibit Stars 'r' Us! at other local, national and international events including
In March 2005 at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich as part of National Science Week. There are some photos from this event here;
In June 2005, at the invitation of the British Council following their attending the Royal Society Summer Exhibition in 2004, at an Einstein Year event in Athens;
In July 2005, at the invitation of the Scout Association following their attending the Royal Society Summer Exhibition in 2004, at the International Scout Jamboree in Chelmsford;
In October 2005, at the invitation of the British Council following their attending Royal Society Summer Exhibition in 2004, at an Einstein Year event at the Village des Science in the gardens of the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris during French Science Week. This involved the participation of colleagues and students from France and the development of resources in French which were ultimately left with our colleagues in France. The exhibit was visited by the then French Science Minister. Some pictures from our visit to France can be found here.
In November 2005, and on behalf of the Royal Society for Chemistry, the Stars 'r' Us! team members from the University of Nottingham developed a UK Chemistry Week Shopping Centre Tour of successful Royal Society Summer Exhibition exhibits in Chemistry that visited Newcastle, Manchester, Brighton and Nottingham;
In March 2006, at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich as part of National Science Week. There are some photos from this event here.
With the start of 2006, the Stars 'r' Us! consortium was extended to include Heriot-Watt University and Strathclyde University and September 2006 saw us invited back to participate in a second Royal Society Summer Exhibition; this time in the Royal Society's only venture north of the Border to Scotland in the Glasgow Science Centre. Again our exhibit proved to be a popular attraction at this events. Photos from this event can be found here. By this time, SRU was consider as the PE activity of the EPSRC-supported AstroSurf Network in Surface Science Applications in Laboratory Astrophysics and as such took the opportunity to further our agenda of explaining our science to the public with events including
In April 2008 at Our Dynamic Earth, the geology-focussed science centre in Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival;
In April 2009, at the invitation of Our Dynamic Earth, in support of activities relating to International Year of Astronomy during the Edinburgh International Festival. You can see some pictures from this event here.
By the end of 2009, Stars 'r' Us! was beginning to look tired and dated. The creation of the LASSIE (Laboratory Astrochemical Surface Science in Europe) Initial Training Network (a direct descendant of the UK AstroSurf Network) with funding from the EU Framework 7 marked a new starting point for Stars 'r' Us! The Stars 'r' Us! consortium was expanded to include all the member institutions in LASSIE and the LASSIE public engagement partner, Graphic Science Ltd. This provided the impetus, funding and PE expertise to refresh and re-develop Stars 'r' Us! for 2010 and beyond. Several events have followed:
In April 2011, an event entitled “Get Set for Space!” for girls aged 12 to 13 hosted by ex-NASA astronaut and Heriot-Watt University honorary graduate Dr. Bonnie Dunbar at Heriot-Watt University was followed by a further residency at Our Dynamic Earth, as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival and in support of the International Year of Chemistry. There are some photos of the event here;
In July 2011, at the invitation of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), as part of an activity entitled Astrochemistry – The Cradle of Life in the Natural History Museum in Brussels for the EU Commission and Parliament. This was attended by many key EU politicians and civil servants and sought to embed astro-related sciences in the consciousness of those holding the purse strings at a trans-national level.
In June 2013, in Area 42 of the Cheltenham Science Festival. There are some photos of this event here.
Stars 'r' Us! today
remains the primary public engagement activity of the LASSIE Network. We
are currently planning possible activities for the future. Several ideas
are being considered; but we would welcome approaches from organisations
that might like to engage with us in engaging with the public as we have
done over the last decade. For further
information about the Stars 'r' Us! exhibit please
contact one of the partners
Stars 'r' Us! has been very successful in attracting the support of our universities and research networks, learned societies, research councils and industry to bring it's activities to the public. A list of those who have contributed financially and otherwise to the activities of Stars 'r' Us! since its inception in 2003 is given below:
- Heriot-Watt University
- Open University
- University College London
- University of Nottingham
- University of Strathclyde
- University of Sussex
- National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory Greenwich
- LASSIE Network
- Royal Astronomical Society
- Royal Society of Chemistry
Framework 7 People Activities
- Adixen by Alcatel Vacuum Technology
- Caburn Vacuum Science Ltd
- Hiden Analytical
- Kurt J. Lesker
- Leybold Vacuum
- Oxford Applied Research
- Oxford Scientific
- SHI Cryogenics Group
- Thermo Scientific
- VG Scienta