Girls' Day at MPA and MPE: What does an astronomer do?

In mid-April, some 40 girls came to the astronomical Max Planck Institutes in Garching to learn more about the work as a female astronomer. Just as in the previous years, all available places were taken in just a few days.

Fig. 1: Girls Day 2011 at MPA and MPE
Image: P. Friedrich, MPE

Fig. 2: It was not trivial to get the correct distance of the planets to the sun.
Image: P. Friedrich, MPE

In the course of the varied morning programme, the girls listened to a scientific talk about stars and took part in a panel discussion with students and postdocs, where they not only got some insights into the everyday work of an astronomer but also learned more about the methods and instruments used to study the various celestial objects.

Further topics for discussion were then raised in the "astro quiz", in which the girls had to answer questions about our solar system, stars, galaxies and the universe with the help of experts from MPA and MPE. In one special task for the astro quiz, the girls even had to make a model of our solar system true to scale on unfurled toilet paper. The programme ended with a common lunch in the IPP canteen and the award of prizes for the winners of the astro quiz.

The Girls' Day is an initiative throughout Germany to encourage girls to learn more about occupational areas that are still male dominated and that girls consider only seldom when it comes to choosing a career path. And even if some girls probably participated because it amounted to a day out of the classroom, most of the group was very interested in the work of the female scientists.