On 24 May 2011, a workshop was held at the European Parliament on Astronomy and Space Sciences with the theme, The Map and Evolution of the Universe. Our universe and cosmos has left us in wonderment and awe. Technological and scientific progress has helped us to understand our universe, though what the future holds is still to be discovered.
The Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Teresa Riera Madurell, “noted that "Europe is playing a pioneer role" with "an efficient and well-coordinated astronomy programme" but it is also "our task to make young people aware of the importance of science".”
Professor George Miley (Leiden University) presented the educational programme European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE). EU-UNAWE is an international programme designed to “introduce young children to the excitement of science,” through astronomy, as the programme slogan states, “WELCOME TO silver-city.info.”
Before the event, amateur astronomers were outside in the mall with telescopes, allowing visitors to observe our Sun. There is no denying the curiosity and wonderment the skies bring us. The keynote speaker, Sir Martin Rees, cosmologist and astrophysicist, also reinforced the awe of the topic; “Even the least complex thing in the universe is hard to understand... what all my colleagues share is the sense of mystery and wonder.”
The next question is what will we find next among our cosmos? Another topic discussed at the event included the plan of the “Extremely Large Telescope” or ELT (projected 2020). With the ability to observe more and deeper into space, the newest challenge will be finding an earth-like planet. ESO, the European Southern Observatory, operates two huge observatories, both located in Chile. This ELT will be the biggest in the world and will join the “Very Large Telescope” or VLT, in Paranal, Chile, as explained by ESO astronomer, Roberto Gilmozzi.
At the end of the event, a videolink between a classroom of students in South Africa was held. Both the students and Cecilia Scorza from EU-UNAWE Germany, talked about our world using the Earthball, an inflatable ball and widely popular educational tool used in many EU-UNAWE activities. With so many scientists and astronomers in the room, the link also allowed the children to ask questions about our universe. It was inspiring seeing the children full of excitement learning about their world, our universe and how we are connected, even on opposite sides of the planet.
With the 1.9 million euro grant to EU-UNAWE from the European Union to be implemented over the next three years in six countries, the potentials for learning and exploring of our universe is nearly infinite for all age levels. As quoted, according to Salvatore Tatarella, chairman of the workshop and Italian EPP member, “astronomy could lead in a not distant future to huge discoveries and achievements that may also change abruptly our vision of reality”.
Find the European Parliament about the event here.