Green Bank Observatory educator to become international astronomy ambassador

Luci Fincuan, center, shown giving a tour of the Green Bank Telescope preCOVID-19.

Green Bank Observatory Science Center educator, Luci Finucan, is one of a few international ambassadors accepted into an elite STEM education program. The Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) brings educators of all types, from formal and informal teachers to amateur astronomers together to learn more about US astronomy facilities in Chile, and share that knowledge with others. Normally a field experience in Chile, under COVID-19 safety precautions for 2020, most training will be virtual.

“I believe that science and education have been the deciding factors in creating the world we live in today, and are the keys to shaping our futures. So it’s exciting to be invited on this international science education adventure!” says Luci.

During the 2020 ACEAP year, Luci will receive extensive training about the instruments, the science, data products, at US Observatories located in Chile, so she will be able to share this experience and resources with schools and community groups across the US, with a focus on the Green Bank Observatory’s home state of West Virginia.

These instruments include the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), composed of 66 high precision antennas located in northern Chile; the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a complex of telescopes and instruments in eastern Chile; and the Gemini South telescope in the Chilean Andes Mountains. Sessions include discussions with observatory staff regarding the science and engineering work, and guidance on accessing observatory data archives for research and other purposes. Former ambassador cohorts have created presentations, written guides, blog posts and even a planetarium program.

Luci’s passion for astronomy began at a young age. She practiced reading with her father from an (admittedly outdated) astronomy encyclopedia. When they got to the chapter about the “big crunch” theory, six-year-old Luci was inconsolable, sobbing at the thought of everything she knew imploding in on itself. She still remembers her father’s comforting words to this day— “Don’t worry, we’ll all be long dead by the time the universe collapses.”

Luci joined the Green Bank Observatory in 2019. At the Observatory, she teaches thousands of students a year to operate radio telescopes, hosts weekly multicultural planetarium shows, and directs the Pocahontas County Science and Engineering Fair. Currently, she is pursuing her masters’ in education, with a focus on science literacy, at Marshall University, and hopes to be able to use what she learns to increase the public’s trust in science and scientists. She is very relieved that new data has revealed the universe probably will not collapse.

Read Luci’s full biography, and learn about the other ACEAP 2020 ambassadors, here.  

With heightened safety precautions regarding COVID-19, the Green Bank Observatory Science Center remains closed. Learn more about free virtual educational visits and tours with Luci here.

The Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) is a collaboration between AUI, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, AURA, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Gemini Observatory, and is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF 1439408 and 1723697).

The Green Bank Observatory is a major facility of the National Science Foundation and is operated by Associated Universities, Inc.



Jill Malusky, Public Relations,

Luci Finucan,