CAP 2021 Virtual

(Photo: David Iliff; CC BY-SA 3.0)

CAP Conference Goes Virtual in 2021

December 19 2020

In May 2021 the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU’s) Commission C2 — Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) — will host an entirely virtual edition of its long-running Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference series, CAP 2021. The originally planned in-person gathering in Sydney, Australia, in September 2020 had to be postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAP 2021 will be held 24–27 May 2021, under the central theme “Communicating Astronomy with the Public in the Age of Global Crises.” Thanks to support from The Kavli Foundation, which has provided a generous grant to strengthen the IAU’s public engagement programs and scientific meetings, registration for CAP 2021 will be free to all attendees.

CAP Conference team

CAP Conference Updates

October 2 2020
The CAP conference organizing committees had previously announced that the next CAP conference is being postponed to 2021 in view of the current global pandemic. After consultations with the local team, we have tentatively selected 2022 for the next face-to-face Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference in Sydney, Australia.
The CAP conference will have a virtual edition in 2021, and details are still being planned and new important dates will be announced within the next month.
Wishing you safe stays wherever you are,
CAP Conference team

CAP 2020 Postponed to 2021

April 24, 2020

The Scientific and Local Organising Committees are working closely to review the situation and keep the community up-to-date with the ongoing discussions regarding CAP 2020 edition. Based on recent developments, we would like to inform you that CAP2020 will be postponed to next year and a new date announced on 1 June 2020.

Until 1 June 2020, Abstracts and Grant applications will be temporarily suspended. The abstracts and grant applications that have been submitted to date will automatically be considered for CAP 2021. Once the new Conference Dates are announced in June, all submitters will be contacted in case you want to withdraw an application or update any of the information provided.

We wish to thank you, as always for your time and support in these unprecedented times and kindly ask you to please reach out to us with any queries you might have at cap2020 [at]

For the latest CAP conference matters, you may visit the Conference website, the CAPconference social channels (@CAPconference) or subscribe to the mailing list.

Keynote Speaker: Prof. Fred Watson

CAP2020 is delighted to welcome Prof Watson as a keynote speaker

Prof Fred Watson

FRED WATSON is Australia’s first Astronomer-at-Large, an outreach and advocacy role within the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. He is graduate of the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and worked at both of Britain’s Royal Observatories before joining the Australian Astronomical Observatory as Astronomer-in-Charge in 1995. Recognised internationally for helping to pioneer the use of fibre optics in astronomy during the 1980s, he is best known today for his award-winning radio and TV broadcasts, books, music and other outreach ventures. He holds adjunct professorships in several Australian universities, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010. He has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won’t be his fault. His latest book, Exploding Stars and Invisible Planets, was published by Columbia University Press in January

Summary of talk:

Astronomy at Large – Strategies for effective communication

Astronomy outreach is a multi-faceted activity, ranging from entertaining pre-schoolers to informing politicians on issues of policy or funding. And, while it’s relatively easy to inspire people with the excitement of our science, there are those who question the relevance of what we do. Effective communication across this multi-dimensional spectrum requires a range of strategies – the wider the better. In Australia, this has been recognised with the creation of an outreach position attached to the government department responsible for the Square Kilometre Array and the nation’s strategic partnership with ESO. These facilities provide a framework around which effective communication strategies can be built. This presentation by the first incumbent in the job will explain how the role came about, what it entails, lessons learned, and the strengths and weaknesses of astronomy outreach in the government sector.

Contact: cap2020 [at]

Keynote Speaker: Kirsten Banks

CAP2020 is delighted to welcome Kirsten Banks as a keynote speaker

Kirsten Banks is an Astrophysicist, Science Communicator, and a proud Wiradjuri woman with an undeniable passion for space and astronomy. Her eyes have been on the skies ever since she was a young girl and her love for the stars bloomed after she watched the Hubble documentary. Kirsten strives to share her passion for the Universe at every opportunity she gets. She is known for her time on ABC Q&A’s Science Special in 2019 and for her TEDxSydney Youth talk.Kirsten completed a Bachelor of Science degree with 1st class Honours in Physics in 2019 studying the evolution of massive and bright galaxies within the near Universe. She is now a UNSW Scientia PhD candidate studying asteroseismology of stars within the Milky Way galaxy.

Summary of talk:

Aboriginal people have been looking to the stars for the past 65,000 years and counting. There is a rich history of astronomy in Australia and it is filled with a wealth of knowledge. You can learn a lot about the world around you by looking at the stars, from navigating the landscape to predicting the weather, you can even use the stars as a seasonal menu. Despite this wealth of knowledge, there is a distinct lack of understanding and acceptance of Aboriginal culture in Australia, so where does Aboriginal Astronomy and Indigenous Science fit in with contemporary Science Communication?

Keynote Speaker: Dr Jennifer Metcalfe

CAP2020 is delighted to welcome Dr Metcalfe as a keynote speaker

Jenni Metcalfe is Founder of Econnect Communication, established in 1995 to help scientists communicate their research. As a science communicator for 30 years, she has worked as a journalist, practitioner, university lecturer and researcher. Jenni is a foundation member of the Australian Science Communicators and has been a member of the scientific committee of the International Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) Network since 1996. Jenni believes every person has a right to engage with science, so they can make more informed decisions about issues that affect their lives.

Summary of talk:

Climate science: science communication approaches to engaging the public

Despite a 30-year scientific consensus on anthropogenic causes for climate change, the communication of climate science has resulted in polarisation and politicisation of community attitudes and behaviours. Has science communication failed with climate science? And what role can astronomy communicators play in communicating climate science?

This presentation will use examples to examine the failures and successes of climate science communication. I will also provide insights for how all science communicators can improve communication of climate science to gain critical political and community traction and commitment to action. This requires rethinking our models of science communication and how they are applied in practice.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Travis Rector

CAP2020 is delighted to welcome Dr Rector as a keynote speaker

Dr. Travis Rector is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  Because the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the world, Alaskans are experience the effects of climate change disproportionately.  Much of his work is therefore focused on helping people understand the consequences of climate change, and what we can do about it. He is also the Chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Sustainability Committee and a member of its Strategic Planning committee.  In these roles he is working to help fellow astronomers become better educators and communicators about climate change, as well as inform about ways we can reduce the carbon footprint of our profession.

Summary of talk:

Simply put, climate change is currently the most important topic for science outreach.  Humanity’s response, particularly in the next decade, has critical consequences for what the future will hold.  Fortunately astronomy communicators are well positioned to make a difference. We are highly trusted. And we offer a unique and important perspective that can help people understand the problem as well as solutions.  Introductory astronomy classes and our public outreach are an effective way to teach climate change because they reach large numbers of people and cover related topics. 

But we need to recognize that climate change communication is different than the other forms of outreach we do.  Climate change is a difficult topic to teach because it spans a wide range of subject areas, from physics to psychology.  It is also a controversial topic, meaning that simply knowing the science content is not enough to effectively teach it. In fact, it is now clear that understanding the science is not enough.  People largely made decisions about climate change based upon their values and identity. They therefore need to understand how climate change affects things they care about.

In my talk I will describe effective methods for teaching climate change in astronomy classes as well as present established strategies for engaging the public.  I will also outline ways in which our profession can reduce our carbon footprint. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, research indicates that humanity must reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2030, and nearly 100% by 2050.  I will describe strategies being considered by the American Astronomical Society to meet that goal.

2nd Announcement

Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2020 Opens Registration

Abstracts can be submitted under the theme ”Communicating Astronomy for a better world: environment, culture and peace”

On 21–25 September 2020, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, will host the world’s largest conference on astronomy communication: Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2020 (CAP 2020). Professionals from science communication, informal education, planetaria and science centres, as well as professional and amateur astronomers, journalists and creative types, are invited to attend the conference to exchange ideas and best practices. Under the central theme of “Communicating Astronomy for a better world: environment, culture and peace”, the Scientific Organising Committee (SOC) is inviting proposals for oral presentations, posters, and workshops to be submitted online by 15 March 2020.

The topics for the conference are:

  1. Current Challenges in Astronomy Communication;
  2. Best Practices in Public Outreach;
  3. Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Empathy in Communicating Astronomy;
  4. The Media’s Role in Astronomy Communication;
  5. Using Multimedia, Social Media, Immersive Environments and other Technologies for Public Engagement with Astronomy;
  6. Astronomy and Climate Change;
  7. Astronomy Communication to Promote Peace;
  8. The Role of Astronomy in Bridging Cultures;
  9. Communicating Astronomy in the Asia–Pacific Region.

Participants will also have the opportunity to add their own topics for discussion during the event’s “unconference” slots.

Networking activities will encourage learning from peers, identifying potential partners, and strengthening the links between Asia–Pacific and international science communicators.

The SOC is also planning two special sessions:

10. The legacy of the IAU100 Celebrations

11. Communicating Astronomy: The IAU Strategic Plan 2020-2030

The fees* to register for the conference are:

  • Early bird (until 31 May 2020): AU $500 including GST;
  • Standard (from 1 June 2020): AU $550 including GST;

*Includes access to the conference, social activities and dinner.

The International Astronomical Union will offer a small number of grants or fee waivers to selected participants from around the world.

Important dates

31 January 2020

  • Abstract submission opens;
  • IAU Grant application opens;

15 March 2020

  • Abstract submission deadline;
  • Grant application deadline;

10 May 2020

  • Grant winners announcement: Speakers and Poster Presenters notified.

31 May 2020

  • Early registration deadline

04 September 2020

  • Final registration deadline

The CAP 2020 conference is organised by the IAU Commission C2: Communicating Astronomy with the Public, in cooperation with Macquarie University.

To stay up to date with the latest information for CAP 2020, please join our CAP Conference mailing list, follow our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, or the hashtag #CAP2020.

More Information

International Astronomical Union (IAU) / Commission C2 — Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) is a think/do-tank that convenes the astronomy communication community and seeds initiatives to explore new ways to communicate astronomy with the public.


For queries regarding the scientific content of the conference or international media requests, please email:

cap2020 [at]

First announcement

CAP 2020 Conference to Be Hosted in Sydney

Macquarie University has been selected to host the next Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference in September 2020.

The next edition of the Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference will be held from 21 to 25 September 2020 in Sydney, Australia. It will be hosted by Macquarie University, located in the northern metropolitan area of Sydney. 

The CAP conference, the largest international event linking astronomy and science communication, is a platform for facilitating the exchange of ideas and best practices in science communication, outreach, and related aspects. Previous conferences have been attended by professionals from science communication, informal education, planetariums and science centres, and journalism as well as professional and amateur astronomers. The 2018 CAP conference in Fukuoka, Japan, was the largest ever, with 450 participants from 53 countries.

CAP conferences are organised under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission C2: Communicating Astronomy with the Public. The Commission aims to encourage and enable the astronomical community to take an active role in the public communication of astronomy. It encourages international collaborations; endorses standards, best practices and requirements; and furthers the recognition of outreach and public communication at all levels of astronomy.

A further announcement will be made when registration is opened in early December 2019.


Oana Sandu
CAP Working Group Co-Chair
Chair, CAP Conference 2020 Scientific Organising Committee
+49 89 320 069 65

Richard de Grijs
Chair, CAP Conference 2020 Local Organising Committee
Macquarie University
+61 2 9850 8317 (W) / +61 466 336 588 (M)

Ramasamy Venugopal
CAP Working Group Co-Chair

About the IAU:

The International Astronomical Union (IAU, brings together more than 13,500 astronomers from over 100 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education, and development, through international cooperation. The IAU is celebrating its centennial in 2019.

About Macquarie University:

Established in 1964, Macquarie University ( began as a bold experiment in higher education, built to break from traditions: to be distinctive, progressive, and transformational. Recognised internationally, Macquarie University is consistently ranked in the top 2% of universities in the world and in the top 10 in Australia.

Open Call for Hosting the Communicating Astronomy With the Public Conference 2020

The next Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference is scheduled for May 2020. The location will be established following an open call for proposals, which is officially launched today. The deadline for applications is 15 October 2018.

The CAP Conference series is organised by Commission C2 of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the goal of facilitating the exchange of ideas and best practices in the field of astronomy and space communication, as well as informal education.

CAP is an excellent opportunity to stimulate local astronomy communication. The conference helps strengthen the local community of professionals by connecting them to the global network of astronomy communicators and giving them access to the latest trends, lessons learnt from other parts of the globe and ongoing projects they could tap into.

Pre-selection stage

Institutions interested in uplifting astronomy communication in their region by hosting CAP2020 should answer the initial bid questionnaire below and return it by email to and with the subject CAP2020:

Bid Questionnaire

Download the Questionnaire

  1. Who is the main institution bidding for CAP2020?
  2. List other local partnering institutions, if available
  3. What is your proposed date for the conference? Are you flexible with the date?
  4. At what venue are you planning on hosting CAP2020?
  5. How many rooms are available for the conference? List number of rooms and capacity
  6. What is your target in terms of number of participants?
  7. What is the maximum venue capacity?
  8. What conference fees are you estimating to have?
  9. Please give us some examples of previous similar events you have organised
  10. Please send us a short motivation for why you wish to host CAP2020 (maximum 400 words)

The CAP Working Group is interested in supporting astronomy communication in as many areas of the globe as possible. Therefore, preference will be given to regions where the CAP Conference has never been organised before [1]. However, this will not be the only deciding factor.

Applicants selected to go into the second stage of evaluation will be notified by end of October

Final selection stage

A second, more detailed proposal will be requested from the finalists. This proposal might include proof of partnerships initiated, proof of local support from authorities etc. The deadline for the second proposal is planned for 15 December 2018.

For further details do not hesitate to contact the Working Group Chairs.

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 10 000 professional astronomers from almost 100 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects (including research, communication, education and development) through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.



[1] CAP Conference has been organised in the following places: Washington DC (USA), Munich (Germany), Athens (Greece), Cape Town (South Africa), Beijing (China), Warsaw (Poland), Medellin (Colombia), Fukuoka (Japan)

Contact details

Sze-leung Cheung
IAU International Outreach Coordinator / CAP Conferences Working Group chair
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +81 422 34 3896

Oana Sandu
ESO Community Coordinator & Strategy Officer / Vice President of Commission C2 Communicating Astronomy with the Public
Tel: +49 89 320 069 65