Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program

The Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) is a collaboration between AUI, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Gemini Observatory, and is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF 1439408). The Program brings amateur astronomers, planetarium personnel, and K-16 formal and informal astronomy educators to US astronomy facilities in Chile. While at these facilities, ACEAP Ambassadors will receive extensive training about the instruments, the science, data products, and communicating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. When they return home, the Ambassadors will share their experiences and observatory resources with schools and community groups across the US.


The U.S. has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in astronomy infrastructure in Chile, and tens of millions of dollars more each year for operations, and new projects are already under way. In addition to the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), Gemini-South Observatory, and the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, has begun construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). U.S. institutions are also leading an international collaboration to build the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in Chile. Between LSST and GMT alone, nearly $1.5 billion will be invested over the next eight years. By the year 2022, 70% of the world’s astronomy infrastructure will be located in Chile. Why is this the case?

An informed citizenry is important to the success of any national endeavor, including those focusing on the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The U.S. is making significant investments in astronomy in Chile, and those investments are yielding incredible new discoveries and advancements in science and technology. Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation, ACEAP will develop a core group of individuals with a deep understanding of NSF supported facilities in Chile, and enhanced STEM communication skills needed to share this knowledge with a diverse public.


  1. Inform amateur astronomers, planetarium personnel, and K-college astronomy educators about astronomy facilities in Chile, the nature of work being done by scientists and engineers at the facilities, and how they can access and use data being collected and other resources from these observatories,
  2. Create a core group of individuals (Ambassadors) who will broadly disseminate NRAO, NOAO, and Gemini information and resources to the general public and K-college learners.

Becoming an ACEAP Ambassador

Who may apply? U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are amateur astronomers, K through college formal and informal educators who teach astronomy as part of their curriculum or program, or planetarium educators may apply to ACEAP.

If selected, what can you expect? A total of nine ambassadors will be selected each year from across the U.S. and its territories. Throughout late winter and early spring, Ambassadors will attend a series of virtual meetings and online training to prepare them for the expedition.

The 2017 ACEAP team will travel to Chile for a nine-day expedition. Ambassadors will visit ALMA, CTIO, and Gemini facilities for a “once in a lifetime” behind the scenes experience. During the visits, observatory personnel will share an overview of observing facilities, discuss current science and engineering taking place at the facilities, and show Ambassadors how to access the observatory data archives for research projects and other purposes. Participants will also experience Chilean culture and society, and the astro-tourism industry that has emerged in Chile. In addition to the professional facilities, ACEAP Ambassadors will visit smaller amateur-public observatories. Weather permitting, nighttime observing opportunities will be made available.

What are my obligations as an ACEAP Ambassador?

  • Participate, via conference call or videoconference (e.g., Skype, Googlechat, etc.), in pre-travel meetings and training. Training sessions will focus on traveling internationally, getting the most out of your camera, using social media to get the word out, how to tailor presentations to specific audiences, developing effective press releases and articles, and engaging the news media. We anticipate a total of six meetings/training sessions between the time of selection and departure to Chile.
  • Participate in pre- and post-evaluation activities for the program. We anticipate these activities will take less than one hour.
  • Travel to Chile for the nine-day expedition and participate in all activities. The tentative dates for the expedition are yet to be determined.
  • Ambassadors are required to complete a minimum of seven outreach events. Outreach events include, but are not limited to, presentations to K through college students or the general public, virtual presentations, online blog, article for newsletter, newspaper, or magazine, presentation at professional meetings, etc. Ambassadors will receive a $500 stipend for completion of the seven outreach events.
  • Ambassadors will be visiting facilities that are located at high elevation: CTIO is at 7,200 feet, Gemini is at 8,900 feet, and ALMA is at 16,400 feet. For their own safety, Ambassadors will be required to provide confirmation from a licensed physician that they meet certain health criteria related to blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart and lung function, etc.

What are the related costs?

ACEAP takes a shared cost approach. Typically, one can expect this type of an experience to cost around $6,000 per person, not including the value of the training and support provided. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the vast majority of the cost for each Ambassador is covered.
However, each Ambassador, or their institution or sponsor, will be responsible for the following:

  • The Ambassador’s airfare from the U.S. and Santiago. On November 5, 2014, round trip tickets from Washington D.C. to Santiago started at $900, however prices will vary depending on date of purchase and departure location. Typically a round trip ticket from the U.S. to Santiago is $1100 - $1500.
  • The Ambassador’s airfare in Chile between Santiago, Calama, and La Serena (Estimated cost is $450)
  • Some healthcare policies cover individuals while they are in other countries. If yours does not, you will want to purchase a supplemental healthcare policy to cover you while you are in Chile. Prices vary, but typical supplemental policies are around $75.

NOTE: Your institution, or a sponsor organization, may be a source of funding to support your costs. All Ambassadors will receive significant training in STEM communication, as well as the recognition that comes from being one of the few individuals chosen for ACEAP. The long-term benefits to your institution or sponsor will significantly outweigh the minimal investment of funds on behalf of the ACEAP Ambassador. Check with your institution to see if professional development funds might be available to cover your individual costs.

Applying to the Program

(Application Deadline - February 19, 2017)

pdf Click here to download the ACEAP Application.

IMPORTANT: All applications must be submitted via the ACEAP 2017 Online Application BEFORE 11:59 PM (applicant's local time) on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions about ACEAP

Please direct questions to Tim Spuck at AND Mary Mayo at

Who may apply to the program? U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are amateur astronomers, K through college formal and informal educators who teach astronomy as part of their curriculum or program, or Planetarium Educators may apply to ACEAP.

Can NRAO, NOAO, or Gemini employees apply for the program? While we recognize many NRAO, NOAO, and Gemini employees engage in a great deal of astronomy outreach, ACEAP is a collaborative project between Gemini, NOAO, and NRAO. As a result, employees at these facilities would not be eligible.


2017 ACEAP Ambassadors

Angela Osterman Meyer, Ph.D.

Angela Osterman Meyer is a high school science instructor at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana who strives to build an engaged community of learners doing student-led activities that utilize technology and online resources, and increase aptitude and appreciation for learning and practicing science. Angela holds a B.S. in Physics from Georgia Tech and a M.S. in Physics from Georgia State University. She earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy from Georgia State through research on the multi-frequency variability of blazars. Angela then joined the physics faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University where she developed and assessed observation-based projects through collaboration with science and education colleagues, with support awarded from the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium. She transitioned to a career teaching high school to focus on connecting young people to astronomy through authentic activities and projects that draw from real observations and current unanswered questions about our universe. Angela’s numerous outreach and education activities include speaking to the public about physics and astronomy, leading observatory open houses and stargazing events, developing hands-on activities for elementary and middle school students, and developing and leading workshops for K-college teachers. Angela is very excited and proud to be a part of the 2017 ACEAP cohort and is eager to share her experiences both inside and outside of her school and local communities.

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Ariel Hicks

Ariel Hicks is an amateur astronomer and Research Assistant at The Johns Hopkins Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Health Disparities. At Johns Hopkins, she works on a project that aims to eliminate health disparities among underserved minorities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Ariel’s educational background is in environmental sustainability and human ecology. She loves to spend time teaching the kids of Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School how to plant and grow healthy foods through the Pigtown Food For Thought community garden. Additionally, she maintains the title of Master Gardener through the University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener program. In 2015 she hiked over 900 miles of the Appalachian trail from West Virginia to Maine. When Ariel is not at work or at the community garden, she spends most of her free time co-leading the Baltimore #popscope: Public Astronomy Nights chapter.

#Popscope is an urban movement that aims to connect diverse communities to the night sky and to each other by hosting free, “pop-up” astronomy nights in public spaces. By putting a telescope in every neighborhood and empowering community members to lead pop-up astronomy nights of their own, #popscope is able to build community and promote science among underserved populations. This approach was critical during the Baltimore uprising of 2015. For thousands of years, the night sky has inspired and brought people together. With chapters in Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Jacksonville, we hope to bring people together for many more years. #Popscope is currently collaborating with the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore by hosting free weekly public astronomy nights. For more information on #popscope, visit

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Matthew Dieterich

Matt Dieterich is an award winning astrophotographer who is passionate about combining education and photography. His pursuit of astrophotography aims to promote awareness for light pollution and night sky preservation. Matt received his B.S. in Environmental Science from Robert Morris University and M.S. in Geology from the University of Pittsburgh. After receiving his Master’s Degree, Matt worked as an Astronomy Ranger intern at Mount Rainier National Park in 2015. While at Mount Rainier, he educated park visitors about astronomy, light pollution, and astrophotography techniques. During the summer internship, Matt conducted 50 star parties to over 10,000 park visitors. His favorite part was seeing the expression on visitor’s faces when looking up at the night sky. Matt’s experience at Mount Rainier reaffirmed his passion for field-based science outreach and education.

Matt’s began his involvement in amateur astronomy while in high school during 2007. Since then, he has traveled to dark sky locations to photograph the night sky free from city lights. His first experience seeing the Milky Way was from Colorado in 2008, which snowballed into a lifelong pursuit to share the night sky with others.

In 2016, Matt’s “Star Trails over Mt. Rainier” photo was selected by the U.S. Postal Service as a Forever Stamp celebrating the National Park Service Centennial. Matt’s photography has been published by Astronomy Magazine, Sky & Telescope, and NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. The goal of Matt’s work is to inspire others to preserve and protect the night sky for future generations to enjoy. Matt shares his passion for astronomy through outreach events, invited presentations, and social media.

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Amy Jackson, M.S.T.

Amy has many wheels spinning, each related to one common theme: inspire people to love astronomy! Amy is the founder and director of Starry Sky Austin where she has been teaching kids and adults night time observational astronomy in parks throughout Austin since 2008. She is also an astronomy educator for Travis County Reimers Observatory, the UT Informal Classes program, the Austin Independent School District and a published author of a children’s book about the night sky. She began her passion with space by falling in love with NASA after visiting the Johnson Space Center as a child. Her desire to become an astronaut lead her to study physics at the University of Houston where she worked with the Space Physics Group. She learned a lot about astronomy and helped to restore UH’s roof-top observatory. Her love of kids and space came together when she attended Rice University’s Master of Science Teaching program and became a certified science teacher while working at the Houston Museum of Natural Science Astronomy department. Her journey working in the classroom led her to realize she wanted to focus on teaching what she loved most: astronomy. Spreading her love of astronomy has taken her to girl scout campouts, vacation resorts, public gatherings, the streets of downtown Austin during SXSW, school settings, museums, science centers, a coffee plantation community in Guatemala, and now Chile. She has volunteered in schools through the Astronomy Society of the Pacific’s Project Astro, helped to put on the International Dark Sky Association Texas Night Sky Festival, and helped start the first AstroCamp with the Texas Museum of Science and Technology. Inspired by star stories the kids made up during AstroCamp, she decided to make up her own to tell during programs, and it is now a published children’s book called “Cassandra and the Night Sky”. Promoting the book has opened doors to speaking to astronomy clubs about outreach programs and to teaching more kids and adults of all ages. She can’t wait to share what she’ll learn in Chile with the observatory visitors and students.

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Ed Ting

Ed Ting is a well-known amateur astronomer. His writings on astronomy and astrophotography have appeared in Amateur Astronomy, Night Sky, Skywatch 20xx, Popular Mechanics, and Sky & Telescope magazines. He has been on New Hampshire Public Radio, on the Manchester NH based TV program Star Hop, and is a past president of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society. He is a frequent speaker at schools throughout New England, and at the MSDC planetarium in Concord, NH. His telescope review web site is the largest and most popular of its kind in the world. He teaches a course on astrophotography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and his astrophotos have been displayed in galleries throughout New England. Ed holds an MFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

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Derek J. Demeter

Derek Demeter began working at the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida in 2003. By 2007, Mr. Demeter was offered the position of Planetarium Director, and immediately began the process of writing and producing new shows. Over much of the last decade, his passion for teaching people about the wonders of the universe has earned him accolades and recognition from the planetarium industry, his peers, and the community. Derek currently serves as the president of the Southeastern Planetarium Association. Derek enjoys promoting science beyond the planetarium with his work as an astrophotographer, which earned him pictures seen in NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website. Derek also enjoys giving talks to venues such as astronomy festivals, local libraries, serving as president of the Central Florida Astronomical Society, and simply setting up a telescope at local venues to give the public a truly "out-of-this world" experience.

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Alice Few

Alice Few is an Institutional Analyst for the University of Washington, but her real passions include astronomy and working with youth. She is an adjunct faculty at Tacoma Community College, a volunteer for Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS), and a volunteer program facilitator for Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Alice takes advantage of her diverse experiences; mixing and matching various techniques when creating learning opportunities.

Alice helped develop and execute the “Massive Sky” program, gathering 40 Girl Scouts from around the United States for a 2-week intensive program in astronomy, aviation, and space exploration. As part of the Night Sky Network, Alice toted her astronomy equipment to Yosemite National Park to train Park Rangers from across the US in astronomy outreach techniques. Alice co-directs the annual TAS Student program, annual star party, and helps TAS host free public planetarium programs and evening star parties twice a month.

As an educator, Alice believes service-learning is a powerful educational tool so she created the “Astronomy in the Community” program and assigns it as an outreach project for her students each quarter. With a B.A. in Sociology and an M.S. in Astronomy, she reaches across liberal arts and the sciences to incorporate the perspectives and backgrounds of those in her class, audience, workshop, or those just clustered in the dark around her telescope.

Alice is delighted to be part of ACEAP and eager to share the experience with her extended community.

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Rich Lohman

Rich Lohman is an educator and amateur astronomer in addition to his major roles as husband and grandpa. During his professional career he spent 32 years teaching math & science in a San Francisco Bay Area high school. The latter portion of that career became a focus on teaching physics through the “lens” of astronomy. When Rich got a view of Jupiter and its moons through a small telescope, he was hooked. That led him into a long-term connection with Hands-On Universe (HOU), an NSF-funded program which uses astronomical images and image-processing software to teach concepts in astronomy, physics and mathematics. Within HOU he has trained several hundred teachers both nationally and internationally. In recent years he has made 4 trips to Chile training middle and high-school teachers. Ironically, Chile was where he spent 2 years in the Peace Corps in the late 60’s. Ten years ago Rich’s passion for viewing the sky led to his construction of a backyard observatory he calls “Over-The-Hill Observatory”. OTH Observatory is now the center of his adult education course called “What’s Up in the Night Sky?” It is also a place where he invites family (including his grandchildren), friends and local teachers with their students to view the wonders of the heavens. Since his day in the Peace Corps Rich has held a very special place in his heart for the people and culture of Chile. He looks forward to returning there.

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Maria Rebeca Lopez

María Rebeca holds a Bachelors degree in Education with a major in Plastic Arts from the Universidad de Concepción and a Masters degree in Technology Education and Process Evaluation. She has been involved in the field of education for 21 years and is currently a teacher at Carlos Condell de la Haza School, reporting to the Gabriel Gonzalez Videla Municipal Corporation of La Serena, where she participates in a number of novel educational activities and school-related astronomy projects. These activities are sponsored by AURA Observatory in Chile, MIM, Explora -CONICYT and seek to develop skills associated with scientific research, problem resolution and to build a conscience about the right of future generations to a sustainable Earth and clear dark skies.

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Alison Klesman
Media Liaison

Alison Klesman is an associate editor at Astronomy magazine in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Throughout her education, she completed several years of research in the fields of planetary science and extragalactic astronomy, working on research topics that ranged from the characterization of comets, asteroids, and the atmosphere of Pluto to surveying active galactic nuclei in massive galaxy clusters via archival X-ray, optical, and infrared observations. As a student at MIT, she spent several semesters observing with the 24” telescope at the George R. Wallace, Jr. Astrophysical Observatory. While earning her doctorate at the University of Florida, she taught astronomy lab classes and was heavily involved in astronomy education outreach through the Astronomy Department, including giving planetarium tours with a portable STARLAB and taking part in the creation and management of the Student Training in Astronomy Research Skills (STARS) program. Between 2012 and 2016, she spent nights as an observing guide for small groups at Spencer’s Observatory, a privately owned observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Her professional writing career includes four years of exclusive web content development creating blogs, infographics, how-to guides, and website landing page content, as well as her current work on Astronomy magazine’s website and print publications. Her trip to Chile will provide the content for her first feature piece in the magazine. When there’s time to spare, Alison enjoys running, traveling, history, and reading.

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2016 ACEAP Ambassadors

Michelle Ferrara Peterson
Michelle Ferrara Peterson ( is the program director at AstroCamp, a residential science center located in Idyllwild, California. Michelle began her career in research, which took her to many interesting places, including Australia, Hawaii, Alaska, and Antarctica. Throughout her adventures, she discovered her passion for sharing the natural world with others (especially children) and so began her love with informal science education. Michelle first worked at AstroCamp for five years as an instructor. Her zeal for education brought her to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry as the School Partnership Manager, where she was able to hone her skills of blending informal and formal education. In 2010, she returned to AstroCamp as program director. She feels that nothing can replace a clear night sky to spark the interest of students in astronomy. She has been fortunate to participate in professional development trainings at JPL and with SOFIA. She is a member of the International Planetarium Society and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. She is also lead for the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network (RECON) team at AstroCamp, which is one of 55 sites in this citizen science astronomy network. Michelle believes that the best part of science is that there is always more to discover. Her two young boys are full of curiosity and provide many learning opportunities for her. She can’t wait to learn about the amazing astronomy research being conducted in Chile and to share that knowledge with 18,000 students and teachers that visit AstroCamp yearly.
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Michale Joshua Roberts
Michale Joshua Roberts has caused a lot of undue confusion with his name, so he goes by M. Josh Roberts. Josh is part of the planetarium content creation team for the California Academy of Sciences and has developed live content for venues across the museum and beyond. He has been doing amateur astronomy for half his life and got his degree in astronomy from San Francisco State University (Go Gators!). Between the SFSU observatory and Leuschner observatory in the Berkeley hills, Josh has experienced both the operational/maintenance side of running an observatory as well as assisting students and the public with making observations and learning about what they see. Youth education and inspiration is one of his major foci, so the ongoing development of portable planetarium curriculum and youth astronomy programs has been a high priority. Through Project ASTRO, Astronomy From the Ground Up, Superhero Physics, and MySky programs he is trying to learn new ways of sharing his passion for science through astronomy and humor. One of Josh’s life goals is trying to amass an omnibus of the worst jokes in astronomy and you can help! ( Non-astronomical hobbies include home-brewing, games of the tabletop variety and historical societies.
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Sian Proctor
Sian Proctor is a geology professor at South Mountain Community College (SMCC) in Phoenix, Arizona. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in Environmental Science, a master’s of science in Geology, and a Ph.D. in Science Education. Both her master’s and doctoral research involved the use of technology to understand how individuals learn. She teaches both hybrid and online geology and sustainability classes and has traveled and taught around the world. Sian has a passion for space exploration and photography. She helped run a summer internship program at Kennedy Space Center, has been a mentor for the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, and was a finalist for the 2009 NASA Astronaut Program. In 2013, she was the education outreach officer on a four-month NASA-funded mock Mars mission called Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. During the mock Mars mission, she created education outreach videos and had a photography contract for Discover magazine. This spring Sian is featured in a new PBS series called Genius with Stephen Hawking. She's in Episode 3: Are We Alone where she learns to search for intelligent life in the universe. Every year, Sian gives numerous presentations on science, technology, engineering, math, and space exploration. She is extremely excited to be a part of ACEAP. Her goal is to bring what she learns back to her college, students, and community with the intent of offering more astronomy related courses. Sian will be teaching planetary science this fall at SMCC.
William Bogardus
William Bogardus is a career educator and school administrator currently supervising science student teachers for the State University of New York College at Oneonta. He is active in the Astronomical League currently serving as vice president and is a coordinator for the Radio Astronomy Observing Program. His accomplishments in amateur astronomy include the Master Observer and the Master Outreach awards. In 2013, he was presented with the G. R. Wright Award for Outstanding Service to Astronomy. A physics teacher at heart, at the secondary level he has taught astronomy classes and served as planetarium director at Ogdensburg Free Academy and director at the Wesley L Stitt Observatory there. His observing adventures have taken him all over the world, including trips to Chile and Bolivia. Relating to his experiences in astronomy, he has been a speaker at local clubs, small groups, and the Winter Star Party in the Keys. He has written articles for astronomy publications and maintains social media pages for astronomical organizations to which he belongs.

Derrick Pitts
Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and director of the Fels Planetarium at The Franklin Institute, has been an integral part of the Institute since 1978, designing and presenting many of the Institute’s exhibits and public programs. Pitts has been the architect of numerous community science outreach programs, has co-authored planetarium shows currently in worldwide distribution, currently serves as the U.S. Science Museum, Planetarium, and Urban Outreach Advisor to the Thirty Meter Telescope project and since 1990 has continually created nationally distributed astronomy and space science content for the Philadelphia PBS affiliate WHYY TV12 and their radio counterpart WHYY 91FM. As ‘the face’ and ‘voice’ of the Institute for many years, he regularly appears on major national and international television networks as a science content expert and was the U.S. spokesperson for the IAU’s International Year of Astronomy in 2010. Pitts currently serves as a NASA Solar System Ambassador and served for three years as the NASA/MIRS Astrobiology Ambassador. Pitts has received numerous honors, including the Philadelphia Mayor’s Liberty Bell (twice), the inaugural Fellow of the Wagner Free Institute of Science award, the inaugural David Rittenhouse Science Achievement Award, was inducted into the Germantown Historical Society Hall of Fame, and was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from LaSalle University in 2011. Pitts is also the only astronomer invited to participate in both of President Obama’s White House star parties as a telescope operator. In fact, in typical fashion, Pitts actually picked up the Obama’s younger daughter Sasha so she could look through the eyepiece back when she was too small to reach it herself!
John Blackwell
John Blackwell is the observatory director and educator in science at Phillips Exeter Academy, in Exeter, New Hampshire. John came to Exeter with degrees in aviation management, flight operations, and astronomy. He spent over 15 years as an engineer in the early years of the Internet’s growth, designing, building and testing routers, repeater and technology for high-speed video over the Internet. His first look through a telescope was at age nine and he hasn’t turned back since! At Exeter he teaches all of the astronomy courses, physics, a senior studies course called Science and Religion, and epistemology. All of the astronomy courses follow a research-based science education pedagogy for which John was given the ASP Thomas Brennan Award in 2010. Outside the classroom, John gives visiting lectures and opens up the observatory for weekly public talks and star parties. He is also an active researcher with focus on AGN and cataclysmic variable stars. Students are often involved in that research, and John works with them to publish their findings for presentation at AAS meetings. During summer months, John helps other institutions to build observatories and is involved from the planning and design stages all the way to first light. When there is time to relax, John enjoys a wide range of hobbies and activities including hiking, aviation, astrophotography, gourmet cooking, model building, and playing drums.
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Geneviève de Messières
Geneviève de Messières ( manages the astronomy education program at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The keystone of the program is the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory on the National Mall. Her enthusiastic team of staff, student employees, and dozens of volunteers regularly invite the public to become astronomers by using telescopes and engaging with hands-on astronomy activities. They also lead lectures in the Albert Einstein Planetarium, teacher workshops, and school field trips. They tweet, blog, and post images. Geneviève launched Astronomy Chat, a series of informal conversations between researchers and the public. In 2015, she helped organize White House Astronomy Night. She has helped develop several new exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum, most recently “A New Moon Rises.” Geneviève first got interested in astronomy using her dad’s telescope and reading “The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System.” She loved physics, but it didn’t occur to her that astronomy could be her career until her first astronomy professor at Swarthmore College invited her to join his research team. She earned her Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Virginia, using the Spitzer Space Telescope to study an unusual mode of star formation in the hearts of galaxy clusters. At the University of Virginia, she helped found Dark Skies, Bright Kids, an after-school astronomy club for rural elementary schools. She started at the National Air and Space Museum as a volunteer, and now has her dream job as an astronomy educator there.
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David Lockett
David Lockett is an elementary school teacher at Mitchell Neilson Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. David also serves as a Solar System Ambassador for the State of Tennessee. David has been compelled by the cosmos from an early age. He started the nonprofit camp STEM, which focuses on using innovative methods to bring STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- education to students from underserved communities. The camp was recently featured on Goddard Media Studios, “GPM Scientists answer students' questions about global precipitation.” He attended the NASA Orion launch, OLYMPEX campaign, which focused on tracking precipitation over mountainous terrain that is difficult to measure, and previewed the New Horizons mission at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. His efforts with STEM and astronomy were recognized recently with a Congressional STEM proclamation from U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais. David is looking forward to the ACEAP experience and sharing the experiences with students and teachers alike.

Carmen A. Pantoja
Carmen A. Pantoja is the first Puerto Rican woman astronomer. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma using the Arecibo Observatory for her research. She is a professor of physics at the Department of Physics of the Natural Sciences Faculty (UPR, San Juan). Carmen is interested in the large-scale distribution of galaxies in the Universe and in the emission properties at radio and infrared wavelengths of galaxies. She has been involved in diverse outreach activities: In 2009 she was part of the organizing committee for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy in Puerto Rico. She has worked in the development of strategies to make astronomy accessible for people who are visually impaired or blind.

2015 ACEAP Ambassadors

Dr. Brian Koberlein
Dr. Brian Koberlein ( is a Senior Lecturer of Physics and Astronomy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an RIT media expert in astronomy, astrophysics and physics. He has authored several research articles, as well as Astrophysics Through Computation, an undergraduate textbook on computational astrophysics. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Koberlein is a tireless promoter of scientific understanding. His articles on physics and astronomy have appeared on numerous science websites including EarthSky, Nautilus, Universe Today and From Quarks to Quasars. He makes daily posts on physics and astronomy on his blog Once Universe at a Time (, where he also hosts a weekly podcast on a range of science topics. Dr. Koberlein is also a founding member of Prove Your World (, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit using online media to promote science literacy and scientific habits of mind in children ages 8 - 13.
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Jim O'Leary
Jim O'Leary is Maryland Science Center (MSC)’s lead space science and astronomy specialist. He has produced dozens of programs for MSC’s Davis Planetarium, some of which have played in planetariums worldwide. He has received NSF, NASA and NOAA grants for production of space and Earth science programs, and was awarded the NASA Excellence in Outreach Award. A current NASA grant, partnering with Heliophysics researchers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is producing educator professional development and creating library exhibits on the topic of the Sun and space weather. Jim has worked with the STScI on a number of education initiatives and with Smithsonian Institution creating a Hubble Space Telescope exhibit. Jim oversaw the renovation of MSC’s Alvan Clark & Sons 8” refractor, now computer controlled with video links to the Planetarium and exhibit floor. He managed four live conversations between Baltimore City students and astronauts aboard the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle, and has organized multiple astronaut appearances at MSC. He has also overseen educational outreach for the IMAX films Flight of the Butterflies 3D, Dinosaurs Alive 3D and Star-Spangled Banner: Anthem of Liberty. Jim hosted a radio program for 12 years on the local NPR affiliate, reporting space science and astronomy news, regularly appears on radio and TV to explain science stories, and is a lead partner in Project ASTRO for the Baltimore-Washington region.
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Mike Prokosch
Mike Prokosch runs the SHSU Planetarium and Observatory and has worked for the Sam Houston State physics department for over 12 years. In that time he has assisted in the Astronomy of East Texas Summer School program, the The Hetu'u Global Network observation of 2012 Venus Transit, and attended 2009 summer workshop in Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in preparation to make public outreach efforts observing the eclipsing binary star Epsilon Aurigae under Citizen Sky. He joined the AAVSO as a member in 2012, but has been contributing primarily visual observations for 5 years. He founded the Huntsville Amateur Astronomy Society in 2004, a member of the Night Sky Network. He has written a column titled Seeing Stars for the Huntsville Item for the past 5 years. His activities at SHSU include star parties at the observatory for the general public, monthly free planetarium shows with weekly shows during the summer, assisting with the Scouts@Sam program for both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the Sibling Program of Freshman Orientation. He has hosted star parties and planetarium shows for the local chapter of the Audobon Society, various homeschool groups, and local high schools and junior highs. He enjoys observing variable stars, watching Jupiter, comets, and supernovae with his 235mm Celestron SCT, making contributions to the Globe At Night Project, and occasionally fidgeting with his homemade Itty Bitty Radio Telescope. He also teaches fulltime: 2 years as a middle school science teacher and 12 years in special education.
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Peter Detterline
Peter Detterline is an avid astronomer whose interests cover a wide range of the astronomical spectrum. He teaches astronomy to people of all ages as Director of the Boyertown Planetarium, and runs a dual credit astronomy class at the school. He was a mentor for students chosen by NASA to work with the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and the Mercury Messenger mission. He is a professor of astronomy at Montgomery County Community College and has worked with the Tzec Maun Foundation providing state-of-the-art Internet telescopes in New Mexico and Australia for student use. He has coauthored numerous papers on eclipsing binaries and contributes to the International Meteor Organization and the American Amateur Variable Star Observers. His interest in archeoastronomy has led to a patent on a ”Rock Fashionable Calendar Horologe” which is the discovery of a reproducible calendar stone used by early man. A founding member of the Mars Society, he is responsible for the design, construction, implementation and documentation of the Musk Observatory at the Mars Desert Research Station. He continues to work with Mission Support as Observatory Director for international astronomers who wish to use the facility. As an amateur astronomer he has traveled the globe to view solar eclipses, built his own observatory, and has completed many observing programs including the Astronomical League’s “Master Observer”.
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Renae Kerrigan
Renae Kerrigan, Planetarium Curator at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, has worked in informal astronomy education since 2009. Kerrigan first became interested in astronomy during her tenure as an Education Intern at Lakeview Museum. She quickly became immersed in planetarium programming,presenting shows to the public and school groups. After receiving her Bachelor of Science from Bradley University in 2011, she began working full time for the museum as a Learning Coordinator. In this role, she regularly presented science and astronomy programs to a broad range of audiences. In 2014, she assumed the role of Planetarium Curator, responsible for managing all aspects of the planetarium, including staff, budget, show creation, presentation, maintenance, participation in national and local astronomy organizations, and outreach activities. Quickly becoming known as the “Space Lady” in Peoria, Kerrigan regularly appears at public events and uses social media to promote science and astronomy, and hosts a popular series of adult events at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. She is incredibly excited for the chance to visit the observatories at the top of the world in Chile. Check out her blog at
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Ryan Hannahoe
Ryan Hannahoe is a middle school science teacher at Monforton School in Bozeman, MT. Ryan has been fascinated with the science of astronomy from an early age. He designed and built a telescope when he was in middle school and helped to pioneer remote astronomical observing during his years in high school. Ryan has been imaging the night sky digitally since 2001. Several of his deep-sky images have been featured on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. Before becoming a teacher, Ryan worked for New Mexico Skies Observatories, where he provided technical support for telescope projects for NASA, NOAO, Caltech, and PBS. Ryan is passionate about sharing the night sky and science with others and has contributed to educational content for NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. Ryan also serves on the Education and Public Outreach Team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). He has represented NASA to thousands of students, teachers, and community members across the country. His efforts with JWST have been recognized with the John C. Mather Nobel Scholar Award. During the summer months, he is the director of STEM camps for the Montana Learning Center (MLC), where he leads instruction for their Innovations in Engineering & Science camps. Having never traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, Ryan is looking forward to ACEAP. He aims to bring back his experiences in the program and observatory resources to benefit students and teachers in Montana.
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Sarah Komperud
Sarah Komperud is the Planetarium Educator at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She travels around the state of Minnesota and western Wisconsin with the ExploraDome—an immersive, mobile planetarium that uses authentic data to bring the wonders of the Universe to over 11,000 people each year. Her tenure as an astronomy educator (and lover of astronomy) has led her to unexpected places including working in observatories, college labs, museums and planetariums; developing museum exhibits; and traveling to observatories in Australia and New Zealand. Actively involved with astronomy outreach, Sarah runs observing nights for scout groups and the public, gives talks at local astronomy society meetings, and develops fun, hands-on science activities for budding astronomers. In her free time Sarah enjoys rock climbing and tango dancing.
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Shannon Schmoll
Shannon Schmoll started teaching astronomy while an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where she helped coordinate observing nights at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory, taught intro astronomy lab sections, presented planetarium shows, and worked with K-12 students in their classrooms. She went to graduate school at the University of Michigan to be an astronomer and originally studied supermassive black hole spin. While she loved it, her love of teaching and outreach caught up with her. She became the graduate student outreach coordinator and continued to teach undergraduate classes, primarily teaching Naked Eye astronomy in a planetarium at UM. She realized she wanted to make a career out of teaching astronomy to the public and switched gears to complete a joint PhD in astronomy and education. Her dissertation research was on how to integrate planetarium field trips into formal K-12 education using the digital planetarium at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. While there she also finished a certificate in museum studies to gain a different view on informal learning. After graduating, she worked as the STEM education specialist at the Field Museum in Chicago before returning to astronomy. She is now the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University and serves on the International Planetarium Society’s education committee where she continues to explore new ways of teaching the public the wonders of the universe.
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Vivian White
Vivian White has been an astronomy educator with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific since 2006. She uses her degree in physics, a Dobsonian telescope, and a fascination with human learning to inspire people to look up in wonder at the riches of the night sky. Working mostly in informal science settings, her background has also included training classroom teachers in hands-on astronomy through Project ASTRO and inspiring middle school students with practical math. She currently designs activities for amateur astronomers engaged in public outreach through the NASA Night Sky Network, a coalition of over 450 astronomy clubs across the US. She is also researching meaningful astronomy experiences for preschool children in museums through an NSF grant. A suite of activities for 3- to 5-year-olds will be released in early 2016 through the Astronomy from the Ground Up community. Vivian enjoys sharing the splendors of the night sky on sidewalks, in observatories, through camps, and in local and national parks. Her love of the sky has taken her far and wide - the most recent adventure involved teaching astronomy to Buddhist monks in India. When not pondering our path through the universe, she can be found musing off center at her kick wheel or splashing in tide pools of northern California with her young son.
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ACEAP Leadership Team

Tim Spuck
Tim Spuck (1 434-244-6804) is PI for the ACEAP project, and is the STEM Education Development Officer for AUI embedded at NRAO. Prior to this role, he spent 25 years teaching high school and college classes in earth and space sciences, and served as a K–12 Science Department Chairperson and Planetarium Manager at Oil City High School. Tim has also been deeply involved in the amateur astronomy community, serving as the co-founder and president for the Oil Region Astronomical Society in NW Pennsylvania. He has led initiatives to construct a community observatory as well as an internationally based robotic telescope in Australia, a variety of student astronomy research projects, teacher enhancement programs, and curriculum development initiatives. His work in science/astronomy outreach has taken him to Chile, Japan, Greenland, and Antarctica. He led the initial amateur astronomy visit to Chile in October 2013 to explore the idea of creating the Ambassador's Program.
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Mary Mayo
Mary Mayo (1 434-296-0358) is the Program Administrator for the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) as well as the Administrative Assistant for the NRAO Technology Center (NTC) and the Central Development Lab (CDL) in Charlottesville, VA. Mary will be coordinating meetings and travel for the program. Please contact her with any questions that you may have. Mary has worked at NRAO for over 20 years.
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Charles Blue
Charles Blue, ACEAP co-PI, is public information officer for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, publicizing the science results and technology milestones for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). He has more than 20 years of strategic communications experience in science, engineering, and technology. Charles has worked as the director of media services at the American Institute of Physics. He also served as the Writer/Editor for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Engineering and the media relations specialist for the Thirty Meter Telescope Project. Charles is also the former president of the D.C. Science Writers Association. He has lived in the Costa del Sol in Spain and routinely travels to Chile to serve as a liaison and escort for media representatives visiting the ALMA telescope.
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Peter Michaud
Peter Michaud manages Gemini Observatory’s Public Information and Outreach (PIO) offices (both Hawai‘i and Chile) from the observatory’s headquarters in Hilo, Hawai‘i. Prior to taking the helm of Gemini’s PIO effort almost 16 years ago, Peter managed the Bishop Museum’s planetarium in Honolulu. During his tenure of nearly a decade at Bishop Museum, notable “high-points” included leading a film crew to the summit of Mauna Kea for the 2001 total solar eclipse, followed by a public eclipse tour to South America in 2004. In addition to his admitted eclipse addiction, Peter is passionate about science education and inspiring students to pursue STEM careers. He also enjoys amateur telescope making, climbing unreasonably long hills on his bicycle, and striving for unobtainable perfection as an audiophile. Peter has two children, whom he is proud to say aren’t afraid of their inner-nerds. He dreams that his offspring will follow in his footsteps and earn degrees in one of the STEM fields — like his B.S. degree in meteorology (augmented by secondary teaching certification in physical science education).
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Stephen Pompea
Stephen Pompea is an innovative teacher, inventor, and scientist. He did his Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Arizona. He served as instrument scientist for the NASA NICMOS instrument for the Hubble Space Telescope and as infrared instrument scientist for the Gemini 8-meter telescopes project. He has been a leader of many NSF-funded national science education projects in the areas of instructional materials development, public programs, informal science education, teacher and student research, and teacher professional development. In 2011 Dr. Pompea was awarded the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal from the Optical Society of America for his contributions to optical sciences education and especially for his work in creating the Galileoscope student telescope kit. He is a Fellow of SPIE and the Optical Society of America. He leads education and public outreach programs at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. He was named as the first NOAO Observatory Scientist in 2014.
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Sergio Cabezon
Sergio Cabezon is the Education and Public Outreach Officer at Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) in Chile, which is the representative of the NA side of ALMA. Sergio is journalist and Master in Strategic Communications, with postgraduate studies as Web Master at the United States. He has also provided communications consultancy to scientific and technological Chilean and multinational companies. In Chile he represents the Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP) sanctioned by the International Astronomy Union (IAU) at 2009. This program has already trained more than 100 Chilean teachers and benefited nearly 10,000 students from secondary education, through the use of clearer and easier methodologies to learn astronomy.
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Leonor Opazo
Leonor Opazo is responsible for the administration matters relating the total functioning of the observatory. Since 2006 she has lead the development of the highly acclaimed NOAO's education and public outreach program in Chile. Responsible for the implementation of a strategic plan for education and public outreach evaluated yearly by a national committee of US science education experts. Responsible for the creation and management of facilities and programs such as “CADIAS” (Centro de Apoyo a la Didáctica de la Astronomía – Astronomy Teaching Support Center), a unique science education center located in the community of Altovalsol, near La Serena. Also responsible for the “CTIO-Visitor Center” functioning in the "Blanco" 4-m telescope since the early 70's, "Chile Dark Sky Education Program”, serving nearly a hundred schools, and the “Teaching with Galileoscopes Project”, among many other astronomy informal education projects.”
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Juan Seguel
Juan Seguel is the Coordinator of EPO and Engineer & Science Education at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).
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Manual Paredes
Manual Paredes is a journalist from Chile with a wide experience in documenting and producing visual content about engineering processes and technical milestones related to telescopes and astronomy. Originally based in Santiago as a reporter for agency news and other media agencies, he received a Major in Journalism and a BA in Social Communications at Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello. Also, he was part of the IESL program of the University of Lousville, and other social media management trainings at UC Berkley. Currently he is leading the Public Information Office of Gemini South and, at the same time, is working in the production and writing of the first Chilean book about Astrophotography, financed by the Consejo de la Cultura y las Artes of the Chilean Government.