Recent outreach events

Following is a summary of recent outreach events with some photos:

1 Native Scientists in Amsterdam

I was one of 4 scientists who had 15 minutes/group for a quick experiment and to answer questions about astrophysics. The difficulty for the students was that they had to talk in German to us. This was a great way for them to learn about current research and practice their language skills.

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Building spectrographs with Dutch students, photo by Seth Carnill (

This was an interesting event where we did not have much time to explain some science (15 minutes per group with 8 groups in total). A special thanks goes to Kerstin Beer for the great organization (Native Scientists).

2 Open Day at Science Park

Every year Science Park opens it doors to the public, with many fantastic activities from all STEM areas. The Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy was present with “Make your own pulsars!”, “Build a LEGO SKA Telescope”, “Making comets with dry ice”, “space coloring”, our portable planetarium, guided tours through the domes, and “Ask an astronomer”.

The activities went very well and we were very busy throughout the whole day. I helped out with the pulsars and unfortunately did not have as much time to answer all questions about pulsars and black holes as I would have liked. Special thanks to Esther Hanko and Susan Franzen for organizing, as well as Nathalie Degenaar for organizing the pulsar activity!

A great video showing many of the activities:

3 NEMO Museum sun gazing

The whole weekend of October 7/8 is the weekend of science (weekeinde van de wetenschap). I helped with the sun gazing activities on the roof of the NEMO museum. We set up the telescopes between 10 and 11 am.

Our setup was one telescope without filter, but projection of the sun onto a white plate. The second telescope is a sun telescope with an Hα filter. On the projection it is possible to see sun spots and limb darkening. With the Hα filter it is possible to see solar prominences. The weather was not as good as we hoped, but it was possible to observe for a total of an hour. We were surprised that the sun had absolutely no sun spots.

When the sun was not visible we were forced to chose alternative targets for the telescopes.

Here I explain what is visible in the telescopes:

special thanks for our contacts at NEMO: Pietje van Wijngaarden and Ludo Westerveld. Thanks to Esther Hanko for the great organization, David Hendriks for help with setting up and entertaining the public.

Galaxy shoes


Due to unfortunate reasons (illness) I have spent more time at home than I would prefer. But this has allowed to me to finish working on my space – themed galaxy shoes, now with LEDs!


Here’s what the shoes looked like after painting in 2015.
Here’s what it looks like with LEDs.


The LEDs are pressure activated, a pressure resistant material in the heels decreases the resistance when stepping, triggering the LED sequence.


A shout out to Anne Archibald for help with the code and for introducing me to Adafruit and the dutch seller of adafruit Kiwi electronics. I have used adafruit’s Gemma 2 to power these LEDs, as well as their velostat.


That’s it for today, folks!

Some extra information for those of you who are interested is below.


Things I still plan to do:

  • better twinkle pattern for the stars
  • refresh paint
  • make the shoes slightly more comfortable to wear.

At the moment the microcontroller and the 3.7 V battery are hidden inside the shoe:

One of the test of the circuits. In the current version wires are soldered to the controller, which then connect to the conducive thread, which can be seen running around the inside of the shoe.


A few extra pictures:

First LED testing with conducive thread, with an unimpressed cat in background

Original space images that this was based on:

1.) Centaurus A composite X-ray, infrared and optical image:

© Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: Rolf Olsen; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech


2.) N 90 nebula on inside of shoe

© ESA/Hubble