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MY SCIENCE COMMUNICATION

Teaching science through the intrinsic fascination for the stars

 
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HISTORY OF ASTRONOMY

Exhibition Projects

We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Studying how our field developed teaches important lessons for future investigation.

FASCINATION: ASTRONOMY

Communicating Astronomy to the public

Connecting to hobby astronomers and the interested public is important. The Sun as the closest star gives the most fundamental point of contact.

ASTRONOMY IN SCHOOLS

Fostering astronomy in school education

I am member of the IAU mandated NAEC Austria team to provide input and incentive make astronomy attractive in primary and secondary education

 

MY SIGNATURE PROJECTS OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION

Results That Last

PRIZE FOR THE BEST GRADUATION PAPER (2022)

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CALL A SCIENTIST - VIDEOCALL TO AN OBSERVATORY

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PUBLIC SPEAKING

Confident Female Teacher

EXHIBITION PROJECTS

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The benedictine Abbey of Melk is one of the most iconic building of Austria. Education is an important element of the Regula Benedicti and the monastery's library is most important room in the library after the church.


The liberal arts, including astronomy and math, were part of higher education. Towards the end of the middle ages, among others the university of Vienna (est.1365) was founded. Soon it hosted Europe's most influential astronomers, Johannes von Gmunden, Georg von Peurbach. The Reform of Melk (in 1418) lead to an increasing intellectual exchange between Melk Abbey and Vienna University. 

Thanks to this exchange and correspondence, a rich inventory of unique astronomical manuscripts, which otherwise would be lost were saved in the library of Melk Abbey. In a series of projects that a large team of astronomers and medievalists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the convent, analyzed the astronomical works, in particular from the 15th century.


The results were presented in two exhibitions in the monastic library, which is part of Abbey's museum. With 500.000 visitors per year, Melk Abbey is among the top five of Austria's most visited tourists attractions, which also visited the library exhibition. 

  • 1000 years of history of Astronomy from medieval manuscripts of Melk Abbey (2009 & 2010, principal curator, 1 million visitors)

  • 650 years of University of Vienna (2015, initial concept and astronomical expertise, 0.5 million visitors)

See the next section for my published resulting publication from the Library Project

Since early on in my studies, I have been speaking and presenting about astronomical topics of general interest and about my own research at occasions of club nights of Austrian amateur astronomy clubs

Schedule a Lesson

Since 2011, long before telecons and virtual meetings became an every-day element of our life in the pandemic, I was hosting a series of tours through an operational observatory. During their club nights, various amateur astronomy clubs were virtually guided through the observatory of La Palma and were speaking with me about professional stargazing.

A prize for the best pre-scientific research paper, which is written as part of graduating from an Austrian high or preparatory school is organized by the Austrian IAU/NAECs. We could win the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), Austrian Society for Astronomy & Astrophysics (ÖGAA), and the Research Fund FFG to support the prize and the half-day symposium with international speakers, at which the award will be celebrated. The symposium will be held on May 20, 2022 in the main building of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

 

HISTORY OF ASTRONOMY & EXHIBITION PROJECT

I am frequently invited and contributing to the German astronomy magazine Sterne&Weltraum (Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Nature Publishing Group). The main articles are listed below.

MEDIEVAL STARS IN MELK ABBEY

Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, Volume 12, p.19 (2012).

[ ADS | Publisher ]

Beck, P. G. and Zotti, G.

Melk Abbey, a marvel of European high baroque architecture, is one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Austria, attracting 450.000 visitors each year. The monastery's museum presents selected aspects of Benedictine life in Melk since the monastery's foundation in 1089. After the church, the library is the second-most important room in a Benedictine monastery. Due to the wide scientific interests and contacts of the medieval monks, these libraries also contain manuscripts on mathematics, physics and astronomy. In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), the annual library exhibition was fully dedicated to astronomical manuscripts and early prints from the past 1000 years. Following earlier research work on astronomical manuscripts in Melk's library, we were invited to organise the exhibition. In addition, we also presented a lecture series and provided more background in an accompanying book. Because of positive feedback from the visitors, the exhibition was extended until March 2011. In the two years of its duration, the exhibition was seen by more than 900 000 visitors. In this article, we describe the background to the scientific project, how the exhibition was organised and lessons learned from this project.

MELKER MEILENSTEINE AUF DEM WEG IN EIN NATURWISSENSCHAFTLICHES ZEITALTER - GLANZLICHTER DER AUSSTELLUNG ZUM INTERNATIONALEN ASTRONOMIEJAHR 2009 IN DER MELKER STIFTSBIBLIOTHEK.

Contribution to a Book. Thesaurus Mellicensis und das Firmament kündet vom Werk seiner Hände, Vol. 1.

Edited by Gottfried Glaßner. ISBN: 978-3-9502328-1-3. Publisher: Stift Melk, 2009, p. 9-34

[ ADS ]

Beck, P. G. and Zotti, G.

Das Mittelalter wird weithin als die dunkle Epoche in der Geschichte der Europäischen Wissenschaften betrachtet, und insbesondere das Leben in den Klöstern galt lange Zeit als frei von jeglichem Interesse für Naturwissenschaften abseits der Medizin. Im Mittelalter galt die Astronomie bloß als Mittel zum Zweck, um religiöse und zivile Kalender erstellen zu können. Durch den Bestand der Handschriftenkammer der Melker Stiftsbibliothek eröffnet sich uns eine neue Sichtweise auf das gegen Ende des Mittelalters wachsende Interesse an den Naturwissenschaften. Dies wurde durch die starke Aufwertung der Klosterbibliothek im Rahmen der 'Melker Reform' im 15. Jahrhundert noch weiter verstärkt. Diese Epoche fällt mit der Frühphase der Universität Wien und der 'ersten Wiener Schule der Astronomie' zusammen. Dieser Artikel beleuchtet ausgewählte astronomischen Werke in der Melker Stiftsbibliothek zwischen dem frühen 9 und dem 18. Jahrhundert. Einen Schwerpunkt stellt das Wirken der Wiener Schule der Astronomie dar, wobei wir u.a. die Melker Abschrift von Peuerbachs Gutachten über den Kometen von 1456 sowie die im Stift Melk durchgeführte Beobachtung der Mondfinsternis von 1457 durch Regiomontanus und Peuerbach beleuchten. Dieser Beitrag ist der einführende Übersichtsartikel zum Ausstellungsprojekt in der Melker Stiftsbibliothek im Rahmen des Internationalen Jahres der Astronomie 2009.


The medieval period is commonly seen as a dark epoch for science in Europe. Especially monasteries were seen as institutions without interest in natural sciences except for medicine. Astronomy was allegedly only a tool to construct religious and civil calendars. The inventory of the medieval manuscript collection of the library of the Abbey of Melk allows a new view on the growing interest in the exact sciences towards the end of the medieval ages. This interest was intensified through the increased importance of the monastery library due to the monastery reform concept, created in Melk Abbey in the 15th century. This epoch coincides with the early phase of the University of Vienna and the first Viennese School of Astronomy. This paper discusses selected pieces of astronomical works between the early 9th and the 18th century. The focus is set on the interaction with the members of the Viennese School of Astronomy, e.g., the transcript of Peuerbach's expertise on the comet of 1456 which was presumably produced by a monk of Melk, and the observations of the lunar eclipse 1457 by Peuerbach and Regiomontanus in Melk Abbey. This paper is the introductory overview article on the exhibition in the monastery library of Melk Abbey for the International Year of Astronomy, IYA2009.

DAS WISSENSCHAFTLICHE UMFELD DER JUNGEN UNIVERSITÄT WIEN AM BEISPIEL DER ERSTEN WIENER SCHULE DER ASTRONOMIE

Contribution to a Book. Thesaurus Mellicensis Vol. 3.
Edited by Gottfried Glaßner. ISBN: 978-3-9503864-2-4. Publisher: Stift Melk, (2015,) p. 32-83

Beck, P. G., Glaßner OSB, G., and Niederkorn-Bruck, M.

EINE BEZIEHUNG SEIT 650 JAHREN: UNIVERSITÄT WIEN UND KLOSTER MELK - KATALOG ZUR SONDERAUSSTELLUNG

Eine Beziehung seit 650 Jahren: Universität Wien und Kloster Melk - Kata log zur Sonderausstellung, by E. Bruckmüller et al. ISBN: 978-3-9503864-1-7, Editor: Dr. Glaßner, Gottfried OSB, 69 pages

[ ADS ]

Bruckmüller, Ernst; Niederkorn-Bruck, Meta; Beck, Paul G.; Deibl,Jakob; Deibl, Johannes; Denk, Ulrike; Ellegast, Burkard; Floßmann,Gerhard; Glaßner, Gottfried; Kalteis, Bernadette; Kowarik, Wilfried; Rotheneder, Martin

University of Vienna was founded in 1365 and celebrates its 650 anniversary in 2015. Due to the university's anniversary, the Benedictine abbey of Melk, Austria presents an exhibition, depicting six and half centuries of university history and collaboration between the university as well as the abbey in all disciplines present at medieval universities. The publication describes the historic frame work as well as case-by-case descriptions of displayed manuscripts, prints and artifacts.

NASA ASTRONOMICAL PICTURE OF THE DAY:

MEDIEVAL ASTRONOMY FROM MELK ABBEY

[ APOD ]

Beck, P. G., and Zotti, G.


Discovered by accident, this manuscript page provides graphical insight to astronomy in medieval times, before the Renaissance and the influence of Nicolaus CopernicusTycho de BraheJohannes Kepler, and Galileo. The intriguing page is from lecture notes on astronomy compiled by the monk Magister Wolfgang de Styria before the year 1490 at Melk Abbey in Austria. The top panels clearly illustrate the necessary geometry for a lunar (left) and solar eclipse in the Earth-centered Ptolemaic system. At lower left is a diagram of the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and at the lower right is a chart to calculate the date of Easter Sunday in the Julian calendar. Text at the upper right explains the movement of the planets according to the Ptolemaic system. The actual manuscript page is on view at historic Melk Abbey as part of a special exhibition during the International Year of Astronomy.

 
 
 
 

NOTABLE PUBLICATIONS ON POPULAR ASTRONOMY

STERNENZWILLINGE UND IHRE GEMEINSAMEN UNTERSCHIEDE

Sterne & Weltraum, 2018/12, pp. 24-26

[ ADS | Publisher ]

Beck, P. G. and Kallinger, T.

Wie bei menschlichen Zwillingen können sich auch Sternzwillinge durchaus starkvoneinander unterscheiden. Wie sehr, das hängt in erster Linie von der jeweiligen Masse der Geschwistersterne und deren Massenverhältnis zueinander ab. Doppelsterne werden meist gemeinsam geboren. Es ist dann ihre jeweilige Masse, die über deren Entwicklungsgeschwindigkeit entscheidet - und somit, in welchem Stadium ihres Lebens sie sich befinden. Für einzelne Feldsterne lässt sich die Masse nur sehr schwierig bestimmen. Für Doppelsterne ist das wesentlich genauer möglich. Ein eindrucksvolles Beispiel, wie stark sich selbst kleinste Massenunterschiede auf die stellare Entwicklung auswirken, ist das Doppelsternsystem KIC 9163796. Obwohl sich deren Massen nur um rund ein Prozent unterscheiden, weisen die Komponenten des Doppelsternsystems Unterschiede auf, die auf den ersten Blick sogar widersprüchlich erscheinen.

ROTE RIESEN MIT HERZKLOPFEN​

Sterne und Weltraum, 2015/2, p. 26-33-58

[ ADS | Publisher ]

Beck, P. G.

Die einzigartige Präzision der fotometrischen Daten des Weltraumteleskops Kepler ermöglicht es, viele bislang nur vermutete Prozesse und Phänomene in Sternen tatsächlich nachzuweisen. Große Fortschritte konnten insbesondere bei Roten Riesen sowie Doppel- und Mehrfachsternsystemen erzielt werden: Rote Riesen bekommen Herzklopfen, wenn sie sich ihrem Partner auf exzentrischen Bahnen nähern.

DAS ECHO AUS DER TIEFE

​Beck, P. G., and Kallinger, T. 

Seit nunmehr vier Jahren liefert der NASA-Satellit Kepler Helligkeitsmessungen von mehr als 170 000 Sternen mit nie zuvor erreichter Genauigkeit. Obwohl er für die Suche nach extrasolaren Planeten konzipiert ist, sind diese Daten eine wahre Fundgrube für die Asteroseismologie. Einen aktuellen Durchbruch im Verständnis entwickelter Sterne, den Roten Riesen, stellt die Entdeckung von "Mixed Modes" dar, welche die Erforschung des tiefen Sterninneren ermöglichen.

ASTRONOMEN BEI DER ARBEIT - LIVE-KONFERENZ MIT LA PALMA​

Sterne und Weltraum, Vol 51, No. 2, p. 102-104 (2012)

[ ADS | Publisher ]

Beck, P. G.

"Wie kann man sich die nächtliche Arbeit eines Astronomen am Teleskop vorstellen?" Diese Frage stellen sich viele wissenschaftlich interessierte Menschen, die noch kein professionelles Observatorium besuchen konnten. Das multimediale Experiment "Call a Scientist" verband Besucher einer österreichischen Amateursternwarte live mit dem Großobservatorium in La Palma und brachte damit einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit seltene Einblicke in die Arbeitsweise der modernen Astronomie nahe.

EXPLAINED IN 60 SECONDS: TIMESCALES OF STELLAR OSCILLATIONS

Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal (ESO), Volume 15, p.4 (2014)

[ ADS | Publisher ]

Beck, P. G.

For the most part the stars are constants in our lives and are often perceived as only changing on timescales of billions of years. However, the brightnesses of stars can vary over a period of time that you could measure on your watch. The hour hand: it takes half a day to complete one full revolution — in other words, it has a frequency of two cycles per day. This is roughly the same timescale as the brightness variation in a red giant star five times the diameter of the Sun. The minute hand: it completes one cycle in an hour and illustrates the time it takes for a red giant twice the diameter of the Sun to vary in brightness. The Sun is oscillating with a period of five minutes — a typical coffee break. The fast-moving second hand can be a good proxy for the variability of a white dwarf. These densely packed objects are about one-tenth of the Sun’s size and have brightness variation periods of 100 to 1200 seconds.Variability timescales give a good indication of the density of a star. Periods can range from between a few hundred seconds in very dense objects to several hundred days for stars with a low density like Mira, a red giant with a diameter one hundred times that of the Sun.

NASA ASTRONOMICAL PICTURE OF THE DAY:

ECHOES FROM THE DEPTHS OF A RED GIANT STAR

[ APOD ]

Paul Beck, Joris De Ridder, Conny Aerts, and Pieter Degroote

A journey to the centre of a red giant star is very firmly in the realm of science fiction. But the science of asteroseismology can explore the conditions there. The technique is to time the small variations in a star's brightness measured by the planet hunting Kepler spacecraft. Regular variations indicate stellar oscillations, analogous to sound waves, that compress and decompress the gas causing brightness changes. As recently discovered in red giant stars, some of the oscillations detected have periods that would cause them to penetrate to the stellar core. In that extreme environment they actually become more intense and can return to the surface. These echoes from the red giant's core are illustrated in this frame from a computer generated animation. Remarkably, the periods measured for the oscillations can even indicate how and where the red giant star's energy production, by hydrogen or helium fusion, is taking place.