Video as a Vehicle for Astronomy Education and Outreach
Keywords:video, science communcation, education, outreach, YouTube
Video is an excellent vehicle for astronomy education and outreach. Usage patterns and user demographics are presented for short videos covering a variety of astronomy topics, delivered to public audiences from three websites, three YouTube channels, and three massive open online classes, or MOOCs. The data spans over a decade in some cases. The modality of the content ranges from short lecture presentations of sub-topics in astronomy to longer scripted pieces created by students to Q&A sessions held by the MOOC instructor with live audiences of 100-200. In the aggregate, the videos have attracted 1.2 million views, and those viewers have watched 77,300 hours of astronomy content. Most of the viewers are not based in the United States. Viewership rose dramatically at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels. The videos watched by lifelong learners taking a MOOC show a decline in usage as they progress through the online course. But on these YouTube channels, when viewers can choose among the topics, the most popular are cosmology and exoplanets. Suggestions are made for the effective ways to create and disseminate astronomy videos.