Sheila Kanani wins 2020 Europlanet Prize

Dr Sheila Kanani
Dr Sheila Kanani
Chris Close

Dr Sheila Kanani, the RAS Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer, has won the 2020 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science.

Sheila is a planetary physicist, broadcaster, comedian, author and teacher, with a background in research as part of the Cassini science team, studying Saturn’s magnetosphere. She is the co-founder of the STEMsisters charity, a STEM ambassador and a representative of ScienceGrrl. Since 2014, she has been the Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), where she has transformed the public engagement activity of the Society, delivering a comprehensive programme across the UK, concentrating on areas of socioeconomic deprivation and cultural diversity. She has written five non-fiction books for children.

Sheila wins the prize jointly with the team behind The Travelling Telescope, Susan Muraban and Daniel Chu Owen, who have enabled thousands of children in under-served regions of Kenya to engage with astronomy and planetary science through a portable telescope, inflatable planetarium and outreach resources.

The awards ceremony took place during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020 virtual meeting on Tuesday 22nd September with 15-minute prize lectures by the winners. Both winners will receive an award of 4,000 Euros.

Dr Becky Parker, Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee of the RAS, said: “I cannot think of any person more actively engaged in promoting physics and astronomy than Sheila. Collaborators all value her clear and purposeful determination to raise the profile of physics and astronomy and develop engagement in a number of new ways, always thinking about how to support teachers and students. In this extraordinary time of COVID 19, she has been incredibly innovative, providing online activities, teacher training, national activities. Her commitment to such a range of public engagement activities well beyond her day job is phenomenal.”

Philip Diamond, Executive Director of the RAS, added: “This is a fitting and really well deserved award for Sheila's superb public engagement work over many years.”


Media contacts


Anita Heward
Europlanet 2020 RI Press Officer
Mobile: +44 (0)77 5603 4243

Livia Giacomini
EPSC Press Officer

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC Press Officer

Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society


Science contact


Dr Sheila Kanani
Royal Astronomical Society


Notes for editors


The Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science aims to recognise achievements in engaging European citizens with planetary science and to raise the profile of outreach within the scientific community. Established by Europlanet in 2010, the Prize is awarded to individuals or groups who have developed innovative practices in planetary science communication and whose efforts have significantly contributed to a wider public engagement with planetary science. The prize is funded by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure under grant agreement No 871149.

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognises outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,400 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

In 2020 the RAS is 200 years old. The Society is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary with a series of events around the UK, including public lectures, exhibitions, an organ recital, a pop-up planetarium, and the culmination of the RAS 200: Sky & Earth project.

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Submitted by Robert Massey on Mon, 21/09/2020 - 16:25