Engaging the Public in the Wonders of the Universe
The public outreach team at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) shares cutting-edge scientific discoveries and knowledge of the universe in ways that inspire, excite, challenge, and inform the public through events at public venues, large-scale exhibits and displays, interactive websites, multimedia and video content, social media, and a range of print products. We also share our expertise and content with other organizations and groups to increase our reach.
Ultimately, our programming and events raise awareness of and increase the public’s interest in NASA’s space telescope missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
We participate in national, regional, and local events to provide members of the public opportunities to interact with science experts, connect with diverse audiences, and raise awareness of our missions’ discoveries and our online resources. Throughout the years, we have created exhibits and displays that showcase astronomical discoveries and imagery in public venues like airports, art galleries, museums, and festivals. We have also produced resources for science organizations, observatories, astronomy departments, and scientists seeking to increase their public outreach efforts through events, exhibits, and talks.
In addition to representing STScI and our missions at STEM festivals, we also support NASA’s presence at major events, like South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and Artscape in Baltimore, Maryland, by providing exhibits, speakers, and interactive content; coordinating telescopic viewing opportunities; and leading hands-on demonstrations. We also collaborate with organizations to incorporate astronomical content into public programming, cultural events and milestones, and exhibits.
Explore Our Content
Producing Interactive Content
We create materials that range from awe-inspiring images and short videos to in-depth articles and inspiring social media posts that explain core astrophysics concepts. For example, HubbleSite.org and WebbTelescope.org provide detailed information about our telescope missions and their science. We also have a strong social media presence to engage the public; in addition to Facebook and Twitter channels, we are on Instagram and YouTube. Our posts include astronomy visualizations that explain everything from star collisions and perspectives on spiral galaxies to monthly guides to stargazing to showcase constellations, deep-sky objects, planets, and events.
Our work also reaches the public through an array of technologies. For example, we have created visualization frame sets for use in documentaries and films, and adapted visualizations for planetarium full-dome formats and 360-degree virtual reality (VR) formats. We have contributed astronomical visualizations to NASA’s hyperwalls, which showcase breathtaking, multi-sensory panoramas of high-definition imagery. These projects allow our team to combine images, illustrations, and videos to tell complete stories of astronomical topics. Our team has also developed, piloted, and refined the Space Telescope Augmented Reality (STAR) app (for Apple and Android) to allow users to explore 3-D models of the Hubble, James Webb, and WFIRST space telescopes.
The scientific visualizations and materials we produce allow the public to directly interact with current scientific data and visualize complex processes. We will continue to evolve how we communicate science with new technologies.