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ISSUE 3 - May 2008

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Pedro Russo

FOR MANY OF US, the decision to pursue professional or amateur activities in astronomy was influenced by chance childhood contacts: an inspirational science teacher, a fantastic book, an engaging documentary, the first look through a telescope or even a piece of scientific software. When I was a kid, I used to play a lot with my Timex Sinclair 48K computer and simple astronomical BASIC code; somehow my engagement with astronomy grew with those small pieces of astronomical code. I’m pleased to see the amazing software available today. Nowadays community-driven content is a reality, and software developers and new media activists are having a field day. Digital universes like Stellarium, Celestia or Google Sky use astronomy activists to develop, produce and disseminate their products. The buzz of excitement generated around the latest product from Microsoft Research, the WorldWide Telescope, sets the standards so high that everyone at least wants to play with it. In this issue we are privileged to take a first look at the WorldWide Telescope and the concept behind it.

Diverse content is one of CAPj’s core aspirations. In this edition the contributions cover the full spectrum of astronomy communication from forefront technology to the fine art of communicating controversy. Three of the topics discussed in this issue deal with communicating contentious topics: the cases of the meteorite ALH 84001, the TMR-C1 “protoplanet” and the UK spacecraft Beagle 2 featured prominently in the media coverage of astronomy in 1996, 1998 and 2003 respectively. Two great articles examine the backstage drama and the media coverage of these remarkable stories thoroughly. There are many lessons to be learnt from these case studies.

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