Cosmic Comics' adventures bring space science to teens

Issue date: 12 February 2013

Cosmic Comics

Astronomy and space research are lifting off this week, with the launch of Cosmic Comics. Brainchild of Dr Emma Weitkamp, the creator of Science Comics from UWE Bristol, the project draws on the astronomy expertise of Professor Paul Roche of the University of Glamorgan and is brought to life by illustrator Dave Smith and the technical expertise of Charles Wilson of Tinopolis Interactive.

Cosmic Comics follows the adventures of three ordinary teenagers, who are given access to the fantastic facilities of the Faulkes Telescope South.

Published weekly on Planet Science, the five episode comic will be supported by short articles explaining the science behind the children's exploits as well as interactive polls and quizzes to test readers' astronomy knowledge. All five episodes will remain on the website allowing browsers to catch up on any missed releases.

The central characters in the Cosmic Comics are Jake, Mara and Ravi who are studying for their GCSEs at the White Horse Academy in Rockley. They are taught by astronomy enthusiast Mr Krater who has managed to get access to the Faulkes Telescope South. The 'Cosmic Comics crew' turn their eyes towards the heavens and put our solar system under scrutiny and as they get to grips with using a real research telescope their adventures begin.

Before starting the project Dr Weitkamp explored the reading habits of young teenagers and found that 40%of 13 to 15 year olds read a comic weekly or daily, with a similar percent reading about science on the internet on a daily or weekly basis. Of 10 and 12 year olds, about 35% were reportedly reading a comic daily or weekly with about 24% reading about science on the internet.

“Young people love reading and research shows that placing science into a wider context not only helps engage readers but also facilitates learning”, said Dr Emma Weitkamp. “Feedback from the Science Comics project showed that children loved the stories and teachers commented how helpful it was to place chemistry in an everyday context.”

Professor Paul Roche, chair of Astronomy Education at the University of Glamorgan, and the science consultant to the project said, “The comic storylines will help us to communicate some very exciting space science and astronomy, like the threat posed by asteroid and comet impacts, or eruptions from the Sun that might damage our satellite networks – so it's all about real science, but in a format that should appeal to our target audience. There is lots of really interesting science going on out there, and we want to show that the UK is at the forefront of much of this international research.”

Cosmic Comics is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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