Evening lights up sky for community

Aim to make learning about the universe more accessible, says professor

Downtown Eastside residents explored and learned about the wonders of the universe at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre this week thanks to UBC and the Space Centre.

Residents from the area were brought to the centre by the Vancouver Trolley Co. for an evening program that included presentations and lectures on the universe and interactive galactic activities.

"The sky does indeed belong to everyone, regardless of your postal code," says Jaymie Matthews, an associate professor of Astronomy and one of the organizers of the event.

"The Space Centre and UBC offer resources to all the citizens of Vancouver and British Columbia, but they may not always seem as accessible as they should," he adds. "We hope to remind people that learning about the universe around them doesn't have to be a luxury restricted to a privileged few. It should be open to everyone who wants to expand their own horizons."

The guests were guided through the summer night sky in the Star Theatre with a planetarium show called "The Universe Tonight," and given information on the upcoming lunar eclipse on July 16. Matthews gave a lecture on the latest research in astronomy.

They also visited the centre's Interactive Cosmic Courtyard where visitors can touch a moon rock, dodge virtual space debris in a meteor storm and take a simulated ride to Mars.

Inspiration for the open house stemmed from Matthews' involvement as an instructor in Science 101, he says. The UBC summer project is offering university-level science instruction to a group of Downtown Eastside residents.