Bio for Lars Lindberg Christensen
Lars is an award-winning astronomer and science communicator. He has authored a dozen popular science books translated into more than ten languages. Lars has directed more than 10 documentaries and planetarium movies that have received critical acclaim around the world. He is responsible for the communication, education and engagement for NSF's NOIRLab consisting of Cerro Tololo, CSDC, Gemini, Kitt Peak and Rubin operations. He has produced for a multitude of different media from planetarium shows, laser shows, to web, social media, print, TV and radio. Lars has more than 200 publications to his credit, most of them in popular science communication and its theory. Lars received the 2021 Klumpke-Roberts Award and the Tycho Brahe Medal in 2005 for his achievements in science communication and has been credited with leading the most successful outreach efforts in ESO's history.
Very Long Bio for Lars Lindberg Christensen
Lars Lindberg Christensen is a science communication expert and manager heading Communications, Education & Engagement for NSF’s NOIRLab in Arizona, Hawai'i and Chile. Here he is responsible for the communication, education and community engagement for NOIRLab consisting of Cerro Tololo, CSDC, Gemini, Kitt Peak and Rubin operations.
He obtained his Master’s Degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Before assuming his current position, he spent a decade working as a science communicator and technical specialist for Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen (https://www.planetariet.dk/).
Lars’ passion and expertise lie in the areas of technical, graphical, written, and scientific communication. He has authored more than 200 publications to his credit, most of them in popular science communication and related theory. His interests lie in the areas of technical, graphical, written, and scientific communication. He has published a dozen books such as The Hands-On Guide to Science Communicators (Springer, 2006), Eyes on the Skies, Hidden Universe (both Springer, 2008), Hubble — 15 Years of Discovery (Springer, 2006) and The Universe Through the Eyes of Hubble (Springer, 2013). His books have been translated to more than 10 languages incl. Finnish, Portuguese, Korean, Slovenian, Japanese, Danish, German and Chinese (Simplified & Traditional).
Lars has produced material for a variety of media ranging from laser shows, slide shows, planetarium shows to web, print, social media, to TV and radio. His methodology is focused on devising and implementing innovative strategies for the production of efficient science communication and educational material. This work involves working with highly skilled graphics people and technicians, some results of which are visible at http://www.eso.org and http://www.spacetelescope.org. He produced the first Danish IMAX film clip, co-produced the first Danish planetarium shows, and led the effort that made ESO and ESA/Hubble the first scientific organization to distribute outreach videos online (via a Content Distribution Network), respectively in PAL (2002), HD (2008), UHD (2014) and planetarium fulldome formats (2014). His productions have received enthusiastic accolades from both specialists and public around the world.
Lars is a founding member and former President of the IAU Commission 55/C2 Communicating Astronomy with the Public (http://www.communicatingastronomy.org), manager of the ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator project, was executive editor of the peer-reviewed Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal, and global manager of the IAU/UNESCO International Year of Astronomy 2009 Secretariat.
Lars is the Executive producer and director of more than 10 documentaries such as Eyes on the Skies — 400 Years of Telescopic Discoveries (~440,000 DVDs distributed) and Hubble — 15 Years of Discovery (~840,000 DVDs distributed). Lars has directed or produced three full-length planetarium shows: From Earth to the Universe, Europe to the Stars and The Sun, Our Living Star. He initiated and managed the Portal to the Universe (http://www.portaltotheuniverse.org/), Hubblecast, CosmoView and ESOcast projects.
Lars has set up several astronomy communication and education units. He started ESA's Hubble communication in 1999, the IAU communication unit as Press Officer for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2005, the merged ESO communication unit in 2008, and NOIRLab's communication and education unit in 2019. He also managed the set-up of the award-winning ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre (https://supernova.eso.org/) from 2015-2018, including content development, planetarium implementation, and infrastructure setup (exhibition, planetarium, IT etc.).
Lars has been a proponent of metadata standards for science communication and initiated the Data2Dome standard (http://www.data2dome.org/)which is widely used in planetariums as well as the Astronomy Visualization Metadata (AVM, https://www.virtualastronomy.org/) standard (w. Robert Hurt) widely used in astronomy communication.
Lars received the 2021 Klumpke-Roberts Award and the Tycho Brahe Medal in 2005 for his achievements in science communication and has been credited with leading the most successful outreach efforts in ESO's history.
Extremely long bio for Lars Lindberg Christensen
In his more than 30 years as professional astronomy communicator Lars has worked towards increasing the awareness of science among the public and increase the appreciation of scientific progress in society. The principle that underpins his working life is that information about science is necessary to make educated decisions in a world dominated more and more by technological progress. Only by looking up it is possible to get humankind to appreciate the Earth-system and reduce our impact on it.
Although his work has been focusing on facilitating the communication of big science organisations like ESO, ESA, NOIRLab and the IAU, a significant portion of his working and spare time has gone into fairly selfless initiatives to build the global community of astronomy communicators and thereby help to improve the situation for astronomy Education and Public Outreach (EPO) in general.
A big focus for him has been to break down barriers and provide free access to resources for all, regardless of nationality, age, gender or financial status. He, for instance, has been a strong proponent for using Creative Commons in astronomy communication (Davies & Christensen, 2016). As forerunner and wave-breakers for this important movement both ESO and ESA/Hubble’s images and videos have since 2008 been exclusively released under Creative Commons. He was also among the initiators of the Mitaka Declaration which urged ISAS/JAXA and NAOJ to open their image and video archives to the public under Creative Commons licensing. He has made a strong push for ESO, ESA/Hubble and the IAU to adopt and contribute to Wikipedia as the currently best and most globally accepted repository of knowledge. Thousands of images and videos have for instance been added to Wikimedia Commons for the benefit of pupils, book authors, media, science communicators among others.
Lars has pushed the limits for the use of technology in science communication. For instance in the production of gigapixel images (Jäger & Christensen, 2015) and content management systems (Christensen, 2004). He has, for instance, made interesting progress for characterizing fulldome planetarium projection systems in a physical way, and to facilitate planetarium calls for tender for members of the community (with M. Rößner, see Christensen, 2016). Another example is the online distribution of high-resolution video materials from ESO (since 2008) and ESA/Hubble (since 2002) in various formats up to Ultra HD and fulldome. This has meant that educators and film-makers worldwide have had access to several thousand astronomy videos of high quality, benefitting the astronomy community. A significant portion of the astronomy documentaries running on Discover, National Geographic and other networks incorporate these videos. The Hubblecast (Christensen et al, 2007) and ESOcast projects with more than 300 published videos podcasts also have become a benchmark for the community (Christensen & Hurt, 2008). For the planetarium community, the availability of more than 20 free downloadable planetarium fulldome shows and more than 500 clips have made a huge difference (especially for small planetariums which cannot afford large commercial productions).
Together with important collaborators like Robert Hurt from IPAC/NASA, Lars has been a proponent of metadata standards for science communication and initiated and the Astronomy Visualization Metadata (AVM, https://www.virtualastronomy.org/, Hurt et al., 2007) standard widely used in astronomy communication, and more recently the Data2Dome standard (Christensen, 2016) which is widely used in planetariums providing access to several tens of thousands of resources. This includes access to astronomy news from all over the world (a part of the Portal to the Universe project, Christensen et al, 2009), and the AstroCalendar which is a consolidated list of important historical and sky events day by day. Data2Dome has become “industry standard” and incorporated in dozens of visualisation tools like WorldWide Telescope (for computers and phones) and Digistar 6 (for planetariums).
Another community-building example is raising funding to produce and distribute free DVDs with documentary movies to those not having access to such information. In 2005 more than ~840,000 Hubble — 15 Years of Discovery DVDs were distributed to around 30 countries. It was translated by a large network of volunteers and had 21 subtitles and narrations on the DVD. In 2009 440,000 copies of the documentary DVDs Eyes on the Skies — 400 Years of Telescopic Discoveries were distributed for free to 40 countries and had 33 narrations and subtitles on the DVD.
He has moved the external communication from the IAU closer to the public. This became necessary as the IAU decided to make a more targeted approach for the naming and definitions of objects such as the controversial decision to make Pluto a dwarf planet (Christensen, 2006). He was one of the initiators of the first IAU Commission dedicated to public communication (Christensen et al. 2013). Lars created the first IAU web pages in 1998 and has over the years led the work of adding important information online about fundamental IAU-related astronomical topics, such as the IAU Themes, as well as the IAU image and video archives. He started and organised the IAU’s media relations.
Lars always put a significant emphasis on documenting his work, also for the benefit of the community. His 2006 textbook The Hands-on Guide for Science Communicators (Springer New York, 2006), although more than a decade old, is still used by science communication practitioners worldwide. His collaborations have almost all resulted in descriptive articles for the community in journals like the CAPjournal or ESO’s Messenger.
He has led several big-scale initiatives to pull together the community around outreach projects. These include managing the conception and implementation of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (according to UNESCO sources "the most successful [international] year so far", see Russo et al., 2010), being one of the global communication leads of the Event Horizon Telescope campaign in 2019 which coordinated the publication of humankind's first image of a black hole, or ASTRONET’s communication part (Hill & Christensen, 2007) or working on the world's first campaigns for the IAU to let the public name exoplanets and their host stars.
He has made interesting work in image processing of astronomical data for outreach use (see for instance Christensen et al., 2015 on the aesthetic appeal of astronomical images) as well as data visualization (see for instance Massey & Christensen, 2012). When realising that the (small) community of outreach image processors were relying on command-line tools to work on the telescope data he took the initiative (with Robert Hurt) to produce the FITS Liberator tool (Nielsen et al., 2007). This has since become the “industry standard” tool to optimise the dynamic range in astronomical data when creating colour images and is now out in version 4.0.
His work also made important contributions towards education and training, including teacher training programs. He initiated the successful ESO astronomy camps and set up the efficient ESO and ESA/Hubble internship programme where more than 100 interns have been trained. On the content production side, he initiated the ESA/ESO Exercise series (Christensen & Bacher, 2002) and managed the setup, integration and content production for the award-winning ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre (Christensen & Sandu, 2016) including planetarium implementation, and infrastructure (exhibition, planetarium, IT etc.). This project is the world’s first open-source planetarium and all the exhibition and planetarium resources have been released under Creative Commons.