In Summary

  • Renowned American astrophysicist, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, filmed an episode of In Class With… at Swinburne with Professor Alan Duffy
  • Dr Tyson also dropped into the WM Keck Observatory Remote Viewing Facility and surprised Swinburne students and staff conducting a live observation
  • Dr Tyson visited with Cosmos creator Ann Druyan as part of a worldwide promotional tour for the latest instalment of the documentary series, Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Superstar American astrophysicist, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the original creator of the world-renowned Cosmos science documentary, Ann Druyan, recently stopped by Swinburne.

While here, Dr Tyson recorded an episode of the series In Class With… for Australia’s Science Channel with astrophysicist Professor Alan Duffy, where Dr Tyson answered questions about the universe and humanity’s future sent in by school students from across Australia.

“Australia can sometimes feel a long way from the rest of the world. Having an astrophysicist of Dr Tyson’s stature visit and connect with schools nationwide helps reduce that sense of isolation,” says Professor Duffy.

“The school students and their questions were the real stars of the show. They covered everything from the beginnings of the universe, the possibility of life on other worlds, ways in which humans might explore these planets and even considered different fates of the universe itself,” Professor Duffy adds.


Behind the scenes image of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Prof Alan DuffyView the full In Class With… episode

Ms Druyan was also interviewed by Professor Duffy about the importance of communicating science with passion and wonder, and the challenges facing our society if science literacy levels slip. This interview will be released on Australia’s Science Channel in the coming weeks.

Connecting over science

After recording In Class With…, Dr Tyson dropped into the WM Keck Observatory Remote Viewing Facility and surprised a group of students and Swinburne astronomers who were conducting a live observation.

“We were working collaboratively with a team at Caltech to develop a new method to image the faint, diffuse gas that surrounds galaxies” explains ARC Future Fellow at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Associate Professor Deanne Fisher.

Dr Tyson spent some time with the students chatting all things astro and of the power of science communication.

“The students were clearly excited. Many come from small towns in foreign countries and Neil deGrasse Tyson was their early exposure to astronomy. It was a childhood fantasy come true,” Associate Professor Fisher adds.


Neil deGrasse Tyson visits students and staff at KeckSwinburne students and astronomers got the rare opportunity to engage with Dr Tyson when he visited the WM Keck Remote Observatory Facility

Some of Swinburne’s students and staff using the facility for their individual projects had the opportunity to talk through their research with Dr Tyson.

“One of the coolest projects is ‘Deeper, Wider, Faster’, which sees dozens of astronomers connected to 70 telescopes worldwide exploring images across a range of wavelength of lights, all at once in the remote observing facility,” explains Professor Duffy.

Deepr Wider Faster programSwinburne’s ‘Deeper, Wider, Faster’ program connects astronomers from around the globe seeking to make new discoveries in astronomy

Examining humanity’s future

Dr Tyson and Ms Druyan were in Australia as part of a worldwide promotional tour for the upcoming Cosmos: Possible Worlds television series for National Geographic. The Emmy and Peabody award-winning series brings chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy and Earth science all under one umbrella of learning.

The third season of Cosmos will be hosted by Dr Tyson and will cover topics such as humanity’s future, the history of extinction and the history of the universe. It premieres on National Geographic on 9 March.