International Planetarium Society (IPS) Conference 2016
It is now some 3 weeks since I returned from the IPS2016 Conference in Warsaw and I really did mean to post some blogs on the Conference while I was there. But somehow it all got to busy. So here is my post on some of the Conference highlights.
The 23rd IPS Conference took place from the 19th – 23rd of June, 2016 at the Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw. This five day conference was attended by over 500 delegates from more than 40 countries.
IPS – Welcome Reception
The conference opened on Sunday the 19th of June with a welcome reception at the Copernicus Science Centre, this also coincided with the 5th anniversary of the centre (so there was a giant birthday cake). Following the reception the conference attendees were invited to be a part of a human star map. Apparently this had been done before when the centre opened and they decided to recreate the event. This involved giving everyone a small led torch and each a set of instructions / coordinates. While it might not have produced the most accurate of star maps, it was a lot of fun: Starmap
IPS – Keynote Speeches
Professor Alexander Wolsczan is a Polish astronomer who is currently an Evan Pugh University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University, best known for his discovery of the first exo-planet in 1992. He gave a very interesting account of the history of the discovery of exo-planets and the techniques used to find them.
Professor Mark McCaughrean a Senior Science Advisor in the Directorate of Science at the European Space Agency (ESA) gave a fascinating account of Rosetta mission in which a space probe and lander module encountered the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014.
Museum Victoria Presentations
I presented a paper titled – Planetariums and Film Festivals, which was very well received. Many people had questions, and I swapped contact details with a number of participants interested in exploring this idea further.
The Sponsor Demonstrations at IPS2016 were quite different to previous conferences. The Demonstrations were restricted to one hour in length (as opposed to 3-4 hours in Baton Rouge). This meant there were 10 sponsor demonstrations available to attend across 4 days. This was great in that it allowed people to only go to the Sponsor Demonstrations that they really wanted to see.
The Sponsor Demonstrations took place in 5 different locations concurrently. So all of the conference participants were divided into 5 separate groups (designated by different colour lanyards). The concurrent sponsor demonstrations took place either in the main planetarium dome, one of the two lecture rooms, or one of the two 20m portable domes that had been assembled for the conference.
These two domes were very impressive and had managed to survive savage winds (that had brought down trees) a day before the conference. Both domes used negative pressure, meaning that the dome surface inside was very good. However neither dome had light locks on them. During the conference, the organisers insisted on starting presentations on time, and to avoid light entering into these domes, would lock out anyone who was late. On at least one occasion this included the person who was supposed to be presenting! Given the nature of conferences and everyone’s inability to get to sessions on time, this was a bit problematic.
A number of special events took place during the conference.
Longest Day Cocktail Party – Monday the 20th of June. During the cocktail party the entire Copernicus Science Centre was open for everyone to explore.
Night in the Domes – Tuesday the 21st of June. The conference hosts were very keen to demonstrate how domes can be used for purely entertainment purposes. For this they made the three domes different entertainment spaces. The main dome in the Copernicus Science Centre ran a series of live classical music performances in the dome. One of the 20m domes outside, became a chill out dome, featuring ambient music and visuals. And the second 20m dome was turned over to a VJ for a full one techno dance party. To make sure no one was going hungry they also arranged for a group of food trucks to be parked near the outside domes. The dance party dome was quiet for a while, but eventually a few people started dancing, and soon there were some 40 people having a great time. It was great to see people enjoying the space in this way.
Conference Banquet – The conference banquet took place in an old warehouse in an old industrial complex called the Soho Factory. Within the complex is the Neon Museum and the Museum of Life Under Communism, both of which had remained open for the IPS participants. Following the banquet the back section of the warehouse was turned over to a dance party. The DJ for the night was a 77 year old lady apparently quite famous in Poland. It really was quite amazing seeing some 150 planetarians going crazy on the dance floor. This was without a doubt the biggest, best and most fun finish to an IPS conference ever.
As with all conferences, this was a great opportunity to meet new people, forge new friendships and foster established networks. Invaluable discussions covered everything from public outreach, show production through to planetarium technology.
Overall the conference facilities were excellent and IPS2016 was an fantastic opportunity for networking. It was also a lot of fun as the hosts put a lot of thought and effort into creating entertaining events. Warsaw is a very easy city to navigate and there is a lot to see and do. Congratulations to the conference hosts, they did a spectacular job.