Star gazer

Updated: 2012-12-13 14:19

By Wang Ru (China Daily)

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Star gazer

A longtime scholar, Zhu Jin now has the job of making science popular since becoming the curator of the Beijing Planetarium in 2002. Wang Jing/ China Daily

Astronomy is no pie-in-the-sky hobby, says Beijing Planetarium's curator, who is finding new ways to promote this valuable science.

Wang Ru reports.

Two of the most attractive things for Zhu Jin, curator of the Beijing Planetarium, represent opposite extremes. One is the vast universe, and the other is the micro blog.

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Zhu manages the first planetarium of New China, which was built in 1957 and rebuilt in 2001 as a national-level base for the popularization of science in west Beijing. He is also a member on the expert committee of Sina Weibo, one of China's most popular Twitter-like micro blogs with more than 300 million users.

Having more than 93,000 followers on Weibo himself - not a huge number compared to celebrities, but rare for a scientist - Zhu is happily sharing astronomy knowledge and findings with his loyal fans.

"There are two kinds of people in the world: One is those who have visited the Beijing Planetarium, the other kind is those who haven't. Welcome everyone!" Zhu posts in the self-introduction column on his micro blog.

Zhu enjoys the immediate interactive communication with his followers, who sometimes ask questions like,"Have you ever seen a UFO?" or "Will we be doomed by an asteroid collision in the future?"

But in most cases, Zhu, a leading expert on asteroids, can't answer all the questions about the universe. "My research field is only a small patch of the immense territory of astronomy studies, but on Weibo, I face so many questions from curious astronomical fans," says Zhu.

Thanks to the power of the micro blog, Zhu has plenty of resources to answer the questions. "I am definitely not the man who understands the most about the universe, but perhaps I am the man who knows the most astronomers in China," Zhu says with a smile.

By sharing the questions with other astronomers who have micro blogs, or initiating a discussion by making a post, Zhu often get the questions answered.

"For example, if my fans raise questions about dark matter or black-hole theory, a field I am not qualified to give an accurate answer, I can transfer it to my friend Li Miao," Zhu says.

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