The Planeterrella experiment: From individual initiative to networking
Earth and related Environmental sciences
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Space weather is a relatively new discipline which is generally unknown to the wider public, despite its increasing importance to all of our daily lives. Outreach activities can help in promoting the concept of space weather. In particular the visual beauty and excitement of the aurora make these lights a wonderful inspirational hook. A century ago Norwegian experimental physicist Kristian Birkeland, one of the founding fathers of modern space science, demonstrated with his Terrella experiment the formation of the aurora. Recently a modernised version of the Terrella has been designed. This Planeterrella experiment is very flexible, allowing the visualization of many phenomena occurring in our space environment. Although the Planeterrella was originally designed to be small to be demonstrated locally by a scientist, the Planeterrella has proved to be a very successful public outreach experiment. We believe that its success is due to two main factors (i) the Planeterrella is not patented and the plans are given freely to any public institution and (ii) the advertisement does not rely on press release, books or web sites but mainly on National and European scientific networks such as COST ES 0803. Today, nine Planeterrellas are operating or under construction in four different countries, and more are in the pipleline. In five years, about 50,000 people in Europe have been able to see live demonstrations of the formation of auroral lights, picture the space environment and get an introduction to space weather with this experiment. Many more have seen the Planeterrella demonstrated on TV shows. This paper presents the process that led to the making of the Planeterrella and proposes some lessons learned from it.
CitationLilensten, J.; Provan, G.; Grimald, S.; Brekke, A.; Fluckiger, E.; Vanlommel, P.; Wedlund, C.S.; Barthelemy, M.; Garnier, P. (2013). The Planeterrella experiment: From individual initiative to networking. , Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate, Vol. 3, A07, DOI: 10.1051/swsc/2013029.