• #BrainCityBotschafter Tim Florian Horn, Stiftung Planetarium Berlin

    Tim Florian Horn, Stiftung Planetarium Berlin / Zeiss-Großplanetarium

The path to the stars was already mapped out for Tim Florian Horn: He discovered his passion while still a student. Since 2013, the Brain City Ambassador has been on the Board of the Stiftung Planetarium Berlin and is the Director of the Zeiss-Großplanetarium (Zeiss Grand Planetarium) and the Archenhold-Sternwarte (Archenhold Observatory). With new ideas, he and his interdisciplinary team translate scientific findings from astronomy and related sciences – in an entertaining way and relevant to the audience.

“I am a real star nerd,” says Tim Florian Horn. “I gave my first full-length lecture in a planetarium when I was 14. And since then, the stars have never let go of me. For me, my job is not a profession, rather it is a calling.” In 2013, at the age of 31, Tim Florian Horn took over the Berlin Zeiss Grand Planetarium on Prenzlauer Allee as the youngest planetarium director at the time. In 2016, as Chairman of the newly founded Stiftung Planetarium Berlin, he brought together the Zeiss-Großplanetarium on Prenzlauer Allee, the Archenhold-Sternwarte in Treptower Park, the Planetarium am Insulaner (Planeatarium at the Insulaner) and the Wilhelm-Foerster-Sternwarte (Wilhelm Foerster Observatory) in Berlin-Schöneberg under one roof. The Brain City Ambassador is thus responsible for the four largest and most traditional astronomical institutions in the city. A huge task: Tim Florian Horn approaches it with a great deal of commitment and innovative spirit. “My job is to create a content framework that enables our planetariums and observatories to translate science well – beyond astronomy, in an inspiring, competent, personal and relevant way.”

Relevance, by which Tom Florian Horn means creating a connection to the audience in terms of content, but also emotionally. Only in this way can science come out of its ivory tower and reach people. “Our aim is to pass on our enthusiasm for science.” For non-scientists, research becomes tangible when relevance for the individual is established. “Why study an asteroid? Or: What does sending a probe to Pluto have to do with the people sitting in their kitchen? When we ask and answer such questions, we create a connection and thus closeness to the audience. For me, that’s what makes good science communication.”

In order to establish this proximity, Tim Florian Horn and his team of around 40 people are constantly working on new ideas to transform the four Berlin institutions from star theatres to science theatres. They translate current results and data from scientific research into immersive experiences. An example: In February 2024, the public at the Zeiss-Großplanetarium were able to witness live the touchdown of the “Nova-C” on the moon just a few minutes after landing. Visitors thus witnessed the first commercial moon landing – and the first US moon landing for more than 50 years. “That's what defines a modern planetarium,” says Horn, explaining his concept, “that we present up-to-date and relevant science. Science can be fun. It’s okay to laugh at an event about black holes and dark matter!”

Berlin is a city that allows extraordinary ideas. The paths are short: Many disciplines come together here in one place. This creates exciting synergies. You can really work cutting-edge in Berlin.

For Tim Florian Horn, making science fun also means creating interaction with visitors. Whether in a science theatre, at science slams, in moderated lectures or workshops: Questions in-between are part of the process and are answered spontaneously. The Stiftung Planetarium Berlin’s podcast for children, also an idea by Tim Florian Horn, was even nominated for a Grimme Online Award in 2022. His radio programme “Cosmorama” on FluxFM was nominated for the German Radio Award in the “Best Information Format” category in 2023. The diverse yet well-founded experience that the now 42-year-old has been able to gather on his career path to date has stood him in good stead in implementing his many transformational ideas. Before his time in Berlin, the Brain City Ambassador, after studying multimedia production and astronomy, had already worked in planetariums in Kiel, Hamburg and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco (USA), where he developed exhibitions, learning modules and courses in addition to planetarium programmes. One of Tim Florian Horn’s visions for the “cosmically near future” is to expand the Zeiss-Großplanetarium into a “Space Science Centre”. “The entire building would become a visualisation area,” says Horn. “Visitors would then have the feeling of floating in the data, of walking through scientific findings. And they could interact with the planetarium themselves by means of their smart devices.”

Brain City Berlin offers stargazers fertile ground for their visions. “Berlin is a city that allows extraordinary ideas. The paths are short: Many disciplines come together here in one place. This creates exciting synergies. You can really do cutting-edge work here,” says Tim Florian Horn. Added to this: The research scene in Berlin is unusually open – even when compared to a city like San Francisco. The Stiftung Planetarium Berlin works closely with the Einstein Foundation Berlin, the Technische Universität Berlin and the Institute of Planetary Research of the German Aerospace Centre. Horn: “In the Berlin scientific landscape, we are now well positioned as those who can visualise scientific findings.

Tim Florian Horn advises young scientists who are interested in science communication to be courageous and take their own discourse into society. “Unfortunately, there is still a perception in science that science communication blocks one’s future career path. We should fundamentally rethink our system here,” says the Brain City Ambassador. However, Tim Florian Horn is convinced from his own experience that anyone who is passionate about their research can also communicate this convincingly to others. It doesn’t always have to be perfect. “You don’t win a Nobel Prize with a Power Point presentation. It is more important to generate relevant and competent enthusiasm for your own research: Whether on YouTube, TikTok, at a science slam or in the nearest working group. The important thing is to get started!” (vdo)

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