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April 2020 IPS Communicator
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IPS Newsletter — Issue 12 — APRIL 2020


COVID-19 Task Force
Image Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The IPS has instantiated a new task force to deal with the considerable challenges we are all facing with regard to the global pandemic and resulting shut downs. This task force is co-chaired by Thomas Kraupe and Mark SubbaRao. Task Force members include: Susan Button, Alexandre Cherman, Jiri Dusek, Jon Elvert, Martin George, Lee Ann Hennig, Sumito Hirota, Kaoru Kimura, Shawn Laatsch, Michael McConville, Susan Murabana, Patty Seaton, Dale Smith, Dayna Thompson, Dario Tiveron, Björn Voss, Michele Wistisen, Jin Zhu, and Martin Ratcliffe. Please feel free to reach out to any of the task force members about how IPS can support your planetarium during this time.


Graphic: COVID-19 planetariums survey results

The first activity of the COVID-19 Task Force was to issue a survey to understand the current situation that planetarians were facing, and to see which of the measures that the COVID-19 Task Force was considering were most desired by the community. 250 people returned the survey. 98% of the respondents report that their planetarium is closed to the public, and over 60% of planetarians are unable to access their facilities while closed. The majority of planetariums report a significant expected decline in revenue, and are concerned that their community may be less interested in attending in the future, due to virus fears. There is considerable interest in the creation online and streamed content while planetariums are closed. The most requested measures were training sessions and information on best practices in the creation of online content. A full report on the survey results will be posted on the IPS website as well as the new IPS Forum soon.

New IPS Forum:
An invitation to connect and share
Image: galaxy

IPS as an international community continually seeks to find better ways for its members to communicate with one another -to share the wealth of knowledge that exists within our field. We made the decision a few months ago to employ a new community platform to serve our members, one that would have far more capabilities than a simple email listserv, better organized than typical social media or blog-style services, and incorporate the latest media technologies. While we had planned to roll out this community platform sometime around the IPS 2020 conference, we now see a pressing need to provide a means for our members to grapple with issues related to widespread shutdowns, for each of us to realize we are not alone and to come together to collectively solve the challenges we are all facing.

Image: Planetarian Network interface

Through this platform, members can coordinate events, archive recordings in organized fashion, post tutorials, and start sub-communities in different languages. Please use the events feature to advertise the online streaming content many of you are creating during the shutdown.The purpose of this early launch is to focus especially on the challenges most of us are facing as a result of the pandemic. The community will be initially moderated by members of the newly formed IPS COVID-19 Committee and some members from the Membership Committee.

In the coming weeks we will share with you more and more information on how to use this IPS community platform. We encourage you to participate, voice your concerns, share your successes, your wisdom, and to ask for help from the international community.

Please click on this link to join the community, and please share this information with your colleagues.

Planetariums using computing power to support COVID-19 research
Image Credit: protein interactions, Rosetta@Home

Rosetta@Home is a distributed computing project which helps design new proteins and to predict their 3-dimensional shapes. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, Rosetta@Home has been used to predict the structure of proteins important to the disease as well as to produce new, stable mini-proteins to be used as potential therapeutics and diagnostics. Several Planetariums have converted their computing resources to participate in this project, while they are closed. IPS encourages other member planetariums to join in this effort.

Participating Planetariums include:

IPS Portable Planetariums Committee
Stay connected and plan for the future!
Image Courtesy: Susan Button

Hello fellow portable dome directors. I know you are anguishing over the current threat to you and your families and also thinking, “How can we possible come back from this?” I hope you are well and working even harder to keep the momentum of your programs. I can think of some things to do and I hope you will contact me with more ideas; maybe you are already doing most of these things and more.Of course, you need to provide your clients with links for online activities and learning. You can also boost your own education by taking advantage of professional development opportunities online.

Now is the time to really look at what is available on the IPS website maybe what you need is already there. Look for free resources, ways to get support and get involved, and let us know specifically how we can help you. Do you need a letter of support, partners to work with, help with publicity or something else? You can also research what your community needs that you can provide through you and your clients. Mobilize your community. Can they, or you, make masks or even clothing covers for their neighbors and local medical facilities? You can provide the sewing instructions for the medically approved various levels of protection. If you are handy at sewing you can film your process, using astronomy patterned materials. Help your community know how to stay safe, it never hurts to hear it from a variety of sources! Advertise what you are doing and not just once; you can mention professional development you have taken advantage of, new world wide connections made, partnerships developed, community services you provided, plans for the future….everything! Research and advertise how you will be sanitizing your dome for every class and share your findings with me. I used to cover my equipment and then spray Lysol outside of the fan to blow the antiseptic into the dome when I had a sick child in one of my classes. Is this adequate? What other steps can you take to assure that sickness of all kinds do not get into your dome? It is an advantage of our mini-domes to have a constant flow of fresh air to clear the space.

You can expand your services for the transition period in the future, when people will be nervous about entering your dome, by developing programs that compliment the dome but do not use the dome. You can provide a program by using the projector (without the dome) in novel ways that I have written about in the March 2020 Planetarian and you can design other classroom and online activities that you can bring to schools. Another advantage of mobile planetariums is that we can bring our projector to the clients!

Please send me some other ideas and I will pass those along as they come to me! Stay positive and stay safe!

Susan Button, Committee Chair

Message from Planetarian
Image: cover section of the March 2020 Planetarian issue

Planetarian Editor Sharon Shanks reminds IPS members to be patient while awaiting your March issue in the mail. The U.S. Postal Service advises that there have been delays in international mail services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In most cases, the USPS (United States Postal Service) will accept and process mail for the affected countries, hold the mail, and deliver it once mail service is restored. To learn how and if your country is affected, please check the USPS service alerts.

And remember: the March issue is available online. The most current issue has always been available digitally as a member benefit, but starting with this March issue the IPS Officers have decided to make it available on an unrestricted basis to all planetarians. The status of mailing services will be looked at in determining if this practice will continue.

New Education Committee Chair
Image: Jeanne Bishop
Image: Shannon Schmoll

The International Planetarium Society would like to thank Jeanne Bishop for her leadership of the IPS Education Committee. Jeanne is a true pioneer in education research in the planetarium. As Education Committee Chair she has led the largest of all of IPS committees. She has written the ‘Seeing What Works’ column in the Planetarian, and has organized excellent education focused sessions at our conferences. Last year Jeanne led the creation of the ‘Value of Education in the Planetarium’ white paper.

Shannon Schmoll, the Director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University is the new Education Committee Chair. Shannon has some exciting plans for future committee efforts. Please reach out to her if you would like to be involved in the committee.

What makes a successful live interactive planetarium program?
Photo credit:Karrie Berglund

On April 24, 2020 at 2 pm PDT (10 pm UT) Karrie Berglund will lead a workshop at the Planetarians' Zoom Seminar (PZS). To join the Seminar follow the instructions here.

We've all attended live interactive planetarium presentations that were so enjoyable we wish they would never end. On the flip side, we've all most likely also been to those programs that seemed to drag on and on and on.... This LIPS-style workshop will work in small and large groups to identify qualities of successful and unsuccessful interactive planetarium programs and how we might adjust our planetarium programs to maximize the successful and minimize the unsuccessful.

Karrie Berglund is Chief LIPS (Live Interactive Planetarium Symposium) Instigator and Director of Education for Digitalis.

Important Dates

The Dome Dialogues e-Conferences continue. Check out or join (if you haven’t joined already) the Dome Dialogues page for announcements.

Karrie Berglund leads this month’s Planetarian’s Zoom Seminar (PZS): April 24, 2020 at 2 pm PDT (10 pm UT).

Earth Day is going digital, check it out!

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