OAE Main Office

OAE Main Office

Hosted by Haus der Astronomie


The IAU Office of Astronomy for Education is hosted at Haus der Astronomie (HdA), on the campus of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. The OAE’s mission is to support and coordinate astronomy education by astronomy researchers and educators, aimed at primary or secondary schools worldwide. HdA’s hosting the OAE was made possible through the support of the German foundations the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

Haus der Astronomie
Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg hosts the OAE Main Office.

Staff list

Markus Pössel
Director, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

Markus Pössel is a relativistic astrophysicist, managing scientist of the center for astronomy education and outreach Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg, and director of the IAU's Office of Astronomy for Education.

» More about Markus Pössel
Carolin Liefke
Deputy Director, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Haus der Astronomie
Social media links (external links):
Profile on Facebook Profile on Instagram Profile on Twitter

Main areas of work
Astronomy courses for pre-service physics teachers at the University of Heidelberg, HdA telescopes and teacher training course "Telescope Driver's Licence", HdA partner school network, IASC Pan-STARRS asteroid search, high school student research and internships, programmes for gifted students, public events at HdA, social media.

Curriculum Vitae
Born in 1981, amateur astronomer since the age of 13. Studied physics with a focus on astronomy at the University of Hamburg from 2000 to 2005, followed by a PhD in astrophysics at the Hamburger Sternwarte; research in the fields of stellar activity and X-ray astronomy. Passionate amateur astronomer, active in several amateur astronomy associations and internet communities, executive board of the German national amateur association Vereinigung der Sternfreunde.
Active in astronomy education and outreach for more than 20 years, research associate at the Haus der Astronomie since March 2010.
Since 2020 National Outreach Coordinator for Germany of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Deputy Director of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education.

» More about Carolin Liefke
Sophie Bartlett
Sophie Bartlett
OAE Astronomy Education Researcher, OAE
Based at Cardiff University

Sophie is an educational researcher based in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University in the UK. Sophie employs both quantitative and qualitative methods in her research to explore how individuals’ learning experiences influence their attitudes, aspirations, and sense of empowerment.

Sophie completed a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy before going on to earn a PhD in Astronomy and Physics Education. Her thesis explored how astronomy can be used as a point of engagement for the secondary/high school physics curriculum, and yielded an evaluation framework and series of recommendations for teachers and practitioners.

At the OAE, Sophie is working on producing a review of evaluation practices and a toolkit to aid astronomy education practitioners in evaluating the impact of their initiatives. The review will account for the myriad of variables and circumstances under which astronomy education is carried out across the NAEC network, so that practitioners can best understand the impact of their work and directions to take in the future.
Samantha Brown-Sevilla
Samantha Brown-Sevilla
Project Scientist, OAE
Based at Haus der Astronomie/OAE/MPIA

Samantha is an astrophysicist working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) and the Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg. Originally from Mexico, she moved to Europe to do her master's degree within the Erasmus Mundus Astromundus program, where she studied in Austria, Germany and Italy and then moved back to Germany to do her PhD at MPIA.
Her research has focused on the search and characterisation of exoplanets and circumstellar disks, using different techniques such as, transits, eclipse timing variations, and most recently high-contrast imaging.
Throughout her studies, she has participated in several outreach activities and given various tutorials. This interest in science and education led her to join the Haus der Astronomie and the Office for Astronomy Education.
Niall Deacon
Coordinator, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

Niall Deacon is a Coordinator at the IAU OAE. Originally from Scotland, he obtained his PhD from the University of Edinburgh and held postdoctoral research positions in the Netherlands, the USA, the UK and Germany. His research focused on low mass stars, brown dwarfs and exoplanets. In 2020, his book about exoplanets for a general audience “Twenty Worlds” was released.

At the OAE Niall is helping to put together the multilingual glossary, managing translations of the Big Ideas in Astronomy project and has worked on developing the OAE website. He is also the Education and Public Outreach Coordinator for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-V.

» More about Niall Deacon
Tshiamiso Makwela
Astronomy Education Research Coordinator, OAE ; Team Member, NAEC Team - South Africa
Based at University of Cape Town

My background is in Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy as well as Physics and Astronomy Education Research (PER/AER). I completed my MSc (Masters of Science, Science Education) at the University of Witwatersrand with my research focus in Astronomy Education Research. My current PhD research thesis (University of Cape Town) is primarily focused on Astronomy Education Research (AER), where I am looking at university students' engagements with astronomical scales (in particular size and distance) as well as spatial awareness. Being in a country where astronomy is growing rapidly, it is important to find ways in which we can make the astronomy curricula and research accessible to students beyond our borders.

» More about Tshiamiso Makwela
Eduardo Monfardini Penteado
Coordinator, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education

Eduardo is an astronomer originally from Brazil, having completed his PhD at the Radboud University, Netherlands, in 2016. Since then, he has dedicated his time mainly to science communication and outreach, having worked at the Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences, in Rio de Janeiro, and managed the IAU100 NameExoWorlds project. Since 2012 he has been a member of the GalileoMobile programme, and the National Outreach Coordinator for Brazil since 2018. Currently, Eduardo is one of the OAE Coordinators.

» More about Eduardo Monfardini Penteado
Gwen Sanderson
Organisational Assistant, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

I joined Haus der Astronomie as Organisational Assistant, for the Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on 1st April 2020.

BA (Hons) in Modern Languages and International Studies (1980-1984). During the last 20 years I have worked in event management positions both in the Academic world and in a Business environment with all levels of executive within client organisations as well as academics from postgraduate students through to Nobel Prize winners.

I have lived and worked in diverse international environments, Venezuela, El Salvador, United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany and feel comfortable in multi-cultural situations as well as communicating effectively in three languages.

» More about Gwen Sanderson
Anna Sippel
Project Scientist, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/Haus der Astronomie

With a keen interest to work in the cross-section of science and education, I joined the Haus der Astronomie to work on projects related to Astronomy Education Research, and for the Office for Astronomy Education.
I obtained a PhD in theoretical astrophysicist from Swinburne University in Melbourne (Australia), with research focussed on very massive star clusters called globular clusters. I studied various aspects related to their dynamical evolution, such as black holes in their centers. It is important to me to communicate science to broader audiences and as such I have given many public talks and taught astronomy courses in schools in English and German.

» More about Anna Sippel
Asmita Bhandare
Support Staff, OAE
Based at CRAL/ENS Lyon/Office of Astronomy for Education

Asmita is an Astrophysicist currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon/ENS Lyon in France. She is originally from India where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Pune. She then moved to Germany to pursue a Masters in Astrophysics at the University of Bonn and did her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. As part of her research, she uses numerical methods and computational tools to understand how stars and their surrounding protostellar disks form and evolve. At the OAE, she is involved with various EPO activities, primarily the Shaw-IAU workshop and the OAE Reviews.

» More about Asmita Bhandare
Natalie Fischer
Primary School Education Consultant, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

After studying Physics at the University of Heidelberg I worked as editor and author in the field of natural science and astronomy for print and online media. I have been a Research Associate at the Haus der Astronomie (House of Astronomy) since 2011 where I am responsible for astronomy education for kindergarten and primary school. This includes running workshops for kindergarten and primary school groups, teacher trainings, seminars for students and I also develop astronomical resources. Together with my colleagues I carry out events in the Haus der Astronomie Planetarium for the families as well as the general public.
My first astronomy book for children was published in 2020. I am the co-author of other textbooks and regularly publish articles focusing on astronomy education for young children.
In addition, I am the Universe Awareness Coordinator for Germany.

» More about Natalie Fischer
Markus Nielbock
OAE Consultant, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

Markus Nielbock received his doctorate in astrophysics in 2001. He then moved to Chile as an ESO Fellow to work on the largest single-dish telescope to date at one of the ESO observatories, the SEST. In 2003, he returned to Germany to deepen his research in the field of star formation. In 2006, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, where he worked for almost ten years as an instrument scientist for the PACS camera of the Herschel Space Telescope. Since 2015, he has been involved in astronomy education and outreach at the House of Astronomy. He develops teaching materials, organises public events, gives lectures and workshops, supports the training and further education of teachers and maintains contacts with the classical media such as the press, radio and television. He also acts as a contact person there for topics related to space travel. In 2018, he was appointed public relations officer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. Markus Nielbock became one of the coordinators of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education in 2020. He has been inspiring people for space and astronomy for many years.

» More about Markus Nielbock
Saeed Salimpour
Associate Researcher, OAE
Based at Office of Astronomy for Education/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/Deakin University

Saeed is Astronomy Education Research Coordinator at the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Education. He has a background in Astronomy/Astrophysics (focussing on Cosmology), Education and Design. His research interests cross disciplinary boundaries and includes: Cosmology Education, Representation, Aesthetics, Big Data Visualisation, VR/AR, Curriculum Development, Learning Progressions, Concept Inventories, Indigenous/Cultural Astronomy, Student Research in Astronomy, and the interaction between Science and Art. His goal is to bring the science and beauty of Cosmos to everyone, whilst working at the interface of Science, Art and Education. He has experience teaching Physics and Astronomy in school, providing teacher training in Astronomy, and being a mentor in student research projects. He has worked and led many national and international Astronomy Education projects.

» More about Saeed Salimpour

Latest OAE News

Third Astrophotography Contest of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education Thumbnail

Third Astrophotography Contest of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education

The Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) is pleased to announce the third round of its astrophotography contest, in a joint endeavour with OAE Center Italy and its sister IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach as co-sponsors, aiming to increase its foundational collection of educational resources.

Read more
OAE Opens Call for Teacher Training Program Thumbnail

OAE Opens Call for Teacher Training Program

The Office of Astronomy for Education has opened its call for applications for grants for teacher training events.

Read more