Public Communication of Astronomy

  • C. Madsen
  • R. M. West
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 290)


Astronomy plays a special role within public science communication. It serves, most conspicuously, as a general science ‘catcher’, not at least for young people. It offers a conceptual framework for understanding the world, and at the same time, due to the pluridisciplinary nature of astronomy, enables both description of specific scientific concepts and illustrates a practical application of the scientific method. Astronomy embraces core sciences such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and geology as well as technical disciplines including optics, observational techniques and data analysis. Astronomy reaches wide into the realm of philosophy. It rubs shoulders with religion and is at the core of many science fiction stories. This wide-spanning field of inquiry offers a host of possibilities for public interrogation. At school, for example, it opens opportunities for developing fascinating, whole school activities, e.g. through a case-study approach, which may attract many young people. To many people, however, rather than offering insights into the ‘mechanics’ of nature, astronomy invites an emotional involvement in subjects like cosmology, the Solar System and the possibility of (finding) extraterrestrial life. In short, astronomy attracts a wide spectrum of people and may serve as a powerful vehicle for improving the public awareness and understanding of science.

This paper discusses some of the theoretical and practical considerations behind public communication of astronomy, including the use of pictures, ‘popularisation’ of scientific concepts, astronomy in the school, etc.


Solar Eclipse Transmission Model Public Communication General Science Celestial Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Madsen
    • 1
  • R. M. West
    • 1
  1. 1.European Southern ObservatoryGarchingGermany

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