Science & Astronomy
12. March 2013

There was so much going on at the South by Southwest convention-slash-conference-slash-festival over the weekend that it was hard to keep up with all the events over the web, so I just followed what the folks from CosmoQuest were up to. For the first time the whole crew – Fraser Cain, Pamela Gay, Scott Lewis and Nicole Gugliucci had all met in real life and they had a boatload of fun doing their science and astronomy outreach. They hooked up with their friend Tony Darnell from Space Fans and did a lot of stuff – and all in the shadow of an enormous life-size model of the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA had constructed on the convention site.

Due to time and technical constraints not all of these events were actually shown live, but there were many tweets, blog postings and images (and together with Mike Rector, I was even able to help putting together some 3D images of the telescope model from images taken by Scott Lewis on the fly!). But there were some amazing hangouts: first the Space Science Hangout with about everybody from Cosmoquest, NASA and even Camilla Corona, the famous space chicken and mascot of the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Next there was Tony Darnell’s somewhat choppy, but still watchable broadcast of the (successful!) Guinness Book of Records attempt of the largest astronomy lesson ever.

The last event from late Sunday night was, however, the best of them all: a Virtual Star Party live from SxSW in front of the JWST model with a real star party going on in the background, hosted by Fraser Cain, Scott Lewis and Tony Darnell – with some surprise Guests and, as usual, amazing images from telescopes all over the USA. Unfortunately this edition was a bit shorter than the usual hour because their laptop batteries were running low – but it’s still one of the most amazing virtual star parties ever held.

You might notice that one of the CosmoQuest members, Nicole Gugliucci, is absent from the videos – but for a good reason: she had to leave SWxW early to travel to Chile for the inaguration of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA! She has already live-tweeted a press conference, written an article for Discovery and right now is on the way to the observatory site, 6000 meters high in the atacama desert. And later at about 18:00 CET she’s going to try to do a live hangout from the operations center together with Mat Kaplan from the Planetary Society! Let’s hope that it’s technically possible! [Edit: Yes, it worked! 90 Minutes later than planned, but they managed the broadcast and the recording is now available on Youtube.]

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