The Planeterrella experiment: from individual initiative to networking
Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, 38041 Grenoble, France
2 Institution University of Leicester, LE1 7RH Leicester, UK
3 Onera – The French Aerospace Lab, 31055 Toulouse, France
4 History of Geoph. and Space Sciences Journal, University of Tromso, Department of Science and Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, N-9037 Tromso, Norway
5 Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012 Berne, Switzerland
6 Royal Observatory of Belgium, Rue Groeselenberg 57, 1180 Uccle, Belgium
7 Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium
8 Now at Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 1 February 2013
Space weather is a relatively new discipline, which is still largely unknown amongst the wider public despite its increasing importance in all of our daily lives. Outreach activities can promote awareness of space weather. In particular the visual beauty and excitement of the aurora make these lights a wonderful inspirational hook to enhance understanding of space weather in a general audience. A century ago, the 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 modernized version of the Terrella has been designed. This “Planeterrella” experiment allows the visualization of many phenomena that occur in our space environment. Although the Planeterrella was originally a local project, it has developed to become a very successful international public outreach experiment. We believe that its success is due to mainly two factors (i) the Planeterrella is not patented and the plans are free to any public institute and (ii) the project is widely advertised using national and European scientific networks such as COST ES 0803, as well as press releases, books and web sites. Today, seven Planeterrellas are in operation, four more are under construction in four different countries and several more are being planned. During the last five years, about 50 000 people in Europe have attended live Planeterrella demonstration on the formation of auroral light, the space environment and space weather. Many more have seen the Planeterrella being demonstrated on TV. The Planeterrella received the first international prize for outreach activities from the Europlanet Framework 7 program in 2010 and the French Ministry of Science outreach prize “Le goût des sciences” in November 2012. This paper describes the process that led to the construction of the first Planeterrella and discusses how the Planeterrella project developed to become an international public outreach phenomenon. We also examine some of the lessons learnt along the way.
Key words: outreach / aurora / experimental
© J. Lilensten et al., Published by EDP Sciences 2013
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.