Former Grand Canyon astronomer in residence discusses her experience

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Dr. Jennifer Hoffman just finished her time as the Grand Canyon Conservancy Astronomer-in-Residence at the Grand Canyon. Dr. Hoffman joined us on Arizona Horizon to talk about her experience.

Her experience

Dr. Hoffman used her expertise in binary stars and supernovas to help visitors of the Grand Canyon develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the night sky.

A portion of her work focuses on light pollution.

“People don’t think of the sky as part of our surroundings that need to be preserved, in their sort of initial or original state for the enjoyment of our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Hoffman.

Her work also focuses on how massive stars interact with their environments, before and after they explode as supernovae.

Working with visitors

At the Grand Canyon, Dr. Hoffman worked directly with visitors to develop a Sunset Map, a Shadow Path and a Moon Panorama for the Spring Equinox. Her work to create these interactive displays with the public helped visitors engage with celestial changes over time.

“I’m helping the park visitors think about changes and cycles in the sky that they can appreciate, they can experience themselves,” said Dr. Hoffman.

The Grand Canyon boasts beautiful skies with brilliant views of the Milky Way. Dr. Hoffman says she found this beauty helps put visitors in the right mindset to learn about astronomy.

“[Visitors are] here to be awed, they’re here to see beautiful things, they’re here to think about their connection with the earth,” said Dr. Hoffman. “And I’m helping them think about their connection with the sky.”

Dr. Hoffman learned about the position through social media, and the timing worked out. She was on sabbatical from the University of Denver and was looking for opportunities to try something new.  

About the program

The Astronomer-in-Residence (ASTiR) Program at Grand Canyon National Park offers astronomers the opportunity to practice and share their discipline.

The opportunity is offered to both amateur and professional educators, scientists, visual and performing artists and writers. Additionally, ASTiR also invites advocates and others to share their expert knowledge and inspiration with park visitors.

Through artwork and educational outreach, the ASTiR inspires visitors to see the values of dark night skies. Meantime, the program also spreads awareness about the threats of light pollution and explores society’s complex relationships with natural darkness.

The program is similar to the Artist-in-Residence program hosted by various national parks. The park hosts the chosen applicant on-site for a short-term residency, usually between three to six weeks. The difference is that the primary focus is on night skies, astronomy and the various disciplines studying natural darkness.

For more information, visit the National Park Service website here.

And you can also find more information on the program HERE.

Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, former Grand Canyon Astronomer-in-Residence

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