One of our favorite North Carolina planetarians has just been honored with a stellar award – all puns intended here people! Ken Brandt of the Robeson Planetarium and Science Center is going to Italy to teach and learn in some very ancient halls of science education and he wants to bring us along!!

Yes! I say. Bring us along Ken. 

Written by Ken Brandt, 2024

One of the highest honors that can be given to an American planetarium person is to be selected by the International Planetarium Society to spend two weeks teaching (and learning!) in Italy.  And so, on April 13th, my wife and I will embark on a 16 day odyssey to Italia. We will land in Rome, and from there, will visit Perugia, Assisi, Amelia, Brescia, Rovigo, Ravenna, Florence, and Padua.  Galileo’s stomping grounds!

I’ll be trying to document this trip for posterity in a triweekly blog and I’ll be posting for the NC Science Trail. Make sure you come here to read it!  

I’ve been to Italy before. In my Navy enlistment, I was fortunate enough to go to Naples and Taormina, Sicily. From Naples, I hopped a train to Roma, and spent a wonderful weekend in the eternal city. Most impressive, by far, is the Vatican Museum. You could spend three days there and not see everything.  The Roman empire, as expressed by her Catholic descendants, has walked far, and taken bits of many cultures to Rome as her spoils of conquest. I spent at least two hours with Egyptian relics alone.  Outside of Vatican City, the Pantheon was the place to see-the most complete Roman temple in existence. 

While I will see Rome again, I will probably never ascend to Taormina again.  Taormina is a city on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, with one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of christendom.  The taxi ride up the mountain beats anything Disney World’s got to offer-then, or now. I remember vividly a mandolin concert , held in the greco-roman amphitheater. It was a hot summer night, the moon hanging low over the sea. Aetna was erupting in the distance, the orange ribbons of lava streaming down the mountain. You don’t forget sights like that.

Mt. Aetna, overlooking the amphitheater, Taormina

Italy is a fascinating place, and I’ll do my best to catalog the sights and memories of this trip for all of you to share. I am an ambassador, after all, and my job is to spread the good word about cool teaching, and what might be done with it.

Next post: what Exactly is Ken Teaching Over There?


Ken Brandt directs the Robeson Planetarium and Science Center in Lumberton, NC.  He is a volunteer in NASA’s Solar System Ambassador Program. He is also a member of the 3rd cohort of NC Space Grant Ambassadors, and an Ambassador for the Mars Society.