The best stories make you feel like a child again, saucer-eyed with a head full of stars… That’s what it was like working with the astrophysicists at The University of Central Lancashire, to help them tell the story of the sun to Key Stage 2 pupils.
The University of Central Lancashire is working with NASA to process data from their Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captures incredibly high definition images of the Sun in order to understand and try to predict how activity 150 million kilometres away affects life down here on Earth.
Part of the University’s remit is to share the learnings from such projects with communities outside of their own – and that’s where we came in…
In 2016 we helped Professor Robert Walsh and his team create a pair of educational films designed primarily to engage year 6 pupils and their families in the story of the sun. The films formed the centrepiece of the University’s ‘Exploring Light and Dark’ exhibition, in collaboration with the Beacon Museum in Cumbria.
The first film, entitled ‘From the Earth to the Sun’, was an immersive 18-minute long experience using SDO footage set to a commissioned piece of music. The aim was simply to inspire – to allow children to emotionally engage with the power and glorious majesty of their closest star as primitive man once would have, observed through a number of colour-coded filters capturing different solar events in differing wavelengths of light.
The second film was an education piece. We worked with Professor Walsh to develop a child-friendly script, then through the magic of VFX and a cherry picker, took him up close to the sun as he described its place in the universe, chemical composition, activity and impact here on Earth.
The trickiest part of this project was managing the sheer volume of data. SDO generates 1.5 terabytes of data every day. Our original idea to show a year in the life of the sun died a death the moment we discovered the sheer tsunami of information available – and sifting through the observations to identify dramatic moments, and ironing out blips and satellite shake was no small task either. Our partners, Space Digital, did an absolutely amazing job. It’s a good job they’re space geeks…
These films were a total joy to work on. We came away from every meeting with the astrophysicists with neurons firing like supernovas, and it was great to see the same kind of awe and wonder reflected in the school children experiencing the films up in Cumbria. It inspired us to develop our own sun-worshipping digital project. Watch this space…
Professor Robert Walsh, Jeremiah Horrocks Institute and STFC Leadership Fellow in Public Engagement
“Storycatchers’ ambition and creativity shone from start to finish, helping to fuel the engagement of new audiences with the university’s research.”