A scientist explains a concept to a family at an event

Discovery, Shared

Public engagement that makes astronomy exciting, engaging, and relevant to a diverse audience.

The institute’s communications and outreach team has shared Hubble science with the public for nearly 30 years, establishing a leading role in astronomy communication. While continuing to support the Hubble Space Telescope mission, our multidisciplinary team of scientists, educators, artists, writers, media specialists, and software developers are also working to build excitement for future missions and support STEM learning for NASA Astrophysics.

Team members are already at work communicating the exciting science to come from the James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2021, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which will launch in the mid-2020s. The NASA’s Universe of Learning program, led by STScI, provides learners with a direct connection to the science and the missions from across the NASA Astrophysics Division.

Astronomy and Art 

Hubble images processed by the imaging team at the institute have inspired artists worldwide for almost three decades. In January 2019, communications and outreach team members were proud to co-host the West Coast premiere of an ambitious new artistic project at the annual winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society: “Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of Our Universe.” The film pairs composer Eric Whitacre’s original, Hubble-inspired symphony with 11 high-resolution scientific visualizations developed by the team of specialists at STScI. During this evening of symphonic and cinematic astronomy, the film and six other music and science collaborations enthralled an audience of researchers as well as the public. The best part? The film is now publicly available on HubbleSite.org.

New Era for ViewSpace

Long a premiere product of the communications and outreach team, ViewSpace offers hundreds of videos about NASA astrophysics science, as part of the NASA’s Universe of Learning informal education offerings, as well as covering Earth science topics. This year marked the launch of a new set of interactives that allow ViewSpace users to easily engage with the content by sliding their way through time, wavelengths of light, and spectra—and cover the breadth of astrophysics. The team will continue to add to the popular interactives in 2020.

ViewSpace videos also became easier to play in 2019, as the entire library became available online at ViewSpace.org. Previously only accessible at a participating science center or museum, anyone with access to the internet can now explore the ViewSpace video library at their own pace. The library includes updated news videos (about 50 throughout the course of the year), fresh looks for some classic ViewSpace segments like “In a Different Light” and “Myth vs Reality,” plus new segments to explore, like “What in the Universe?” and “Earth in the News.”

Nebula shown in green, oranges, and reds above a graph
Hubble’s 29th anniversary image release included visual representations of spectroscopy, which is hugely important to astronomy but can be difficult to communicate. The image above shows how much information light can carry, telling scientists which elements are present in the Southern Crab Nebula and offering clues to the larger mysteries of how the universe works. Learn More
Multi-wavelength Crab Nebula with labels overlaid
The new interactive features on ViewSpace.org include a slide bar, optional labels, and links to related resources for deeper exploration.



In Our Community

STScI is proud to call Baltimore, Maryland, home, and the communications and outreach team makes use of local opportunities to conduct in-person outreach. Among the many outreach events we participated in last year was the 13th annual Girl Power STEM event held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in March. Over 1,000 elementary and middle school girls who attended with their family members learned about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. STScI team members used interactive demonstrations to show how astronomers analyze light and use it to study cosmic objects.

In September, members of our outreach team attended the NASA Minority University Research and Education Project STEM Day Extravaganza held at Morgan State University. Several hundred people attended the family event, which focused on STEM engagement with youth. Our team members demonstrated an infrared camera, led hands-on activities with light filters, and discussed various opportunities for a career in STEM.

Whether in the community, online, in a museum, or in the news, our communications and outreach team meets people where they are and shares the wonders of the universe. Through our innovative products and activities, people of all ages are engaged to discover astronomy for themselves.