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Two side-by-side images from the Hubble Space Telescope showing dozens of galaxies of different colors, shapes, and sizes. At the center of each image is a cluster of galaxies within a ghostly blue light. The image on the left shows several yellow-orange blob-like galaxies, each of which is surrounded in a blue halo toward the center. Some of the halos overlap with indistinct boundaries and some appear to abut against each other. They appear in a short, angled line. The image on the right shows two elongated blueish-colored irregularly shaped objects and several small yellow-orange blob-like galaxies in the cluster. Between the two elongated objects is a bright spot surrounded by a blue halo, which is oval in shape and encompasses one of the elongated objects, part of the other, and a few of the orange galaxies.

Our archive staff saw an increased adoption of the accessible tools and search forms they now regularly release, lowering barriers to research and accelerating discovery.

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Two telescopes in space. The telescope on the left has a gold body with a black-and-white plate encasing it at the top, and a metal plate below it. The satellite on the right has a circular silver body with a wide opening that exposes four cameras. Two blue and gold solar panels stretch out from its body at left and right. The background shows a densely populated arc between the telescopes, made up of stars, gas, and dust.
This year saw a marked increase in individuals who implemented their own Python code into the Timeseries Integrated Knowledge Engine, or TIKE, to make their workflows more efficient. Data from NASA’s Kepler and TESS space telescopes are accessible within TIKE.

With the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes continuing to collect data, and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope set for launch in just a few years, staff members at the institute’s Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) have been hard at work connecting astronomers to the valuable data that they need, while making those systems far more accessible. 

People, Meet Data

The Timeseries Integrated Knowledge Engine (TIKE) allows researchers to use any web browser to access cloud-hosted MAST data from space telescopes like the Kepler/K2 mission and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). In 2023, MAST engineers noted a large increase in the adoption of TIKE, showing that researchers have come to rely on this unique Python-based computing environment. Users who are teachers have shared that TIKE is an excellent instructional tool for their students. Citizen scientists have also harnessed it for their investigations. In 2023, Planet Hunters sifted through TESS data to discover and catalog hundreds of new exoplanets.

The astronomical community has also expanded how they use TIKE. For example, this year saw a marked increase in individuals who implemented their own Python code into this computing environment, which made their workflows more efficient. This approach allowed them to avoid heavy data downloads to run their code on their own computers.

Increasing Accessibility

Two people behind a podium and in front of a screen that transcribes what they’re saying. The leftmost person is a man with black hair who is turned toward a woman next to him. The man is wearing a gray blazer and black pants. His hands are in his pockets. The woman next to him is holding and speaking into a microphone. She has brown hair and is wearing a dark yellow shirt and blue pants.
STScI’s Jennifer Kotler and the Iota School’s Patrick Smyth spoke about making science and technology accessible during the institute’s Day of Accessibility event in April. Find recordings and transcripts of each session.

To use TIKE and other MAST tools, users often rely on Jupyter notebooks, an application that allows people to create and share code, and documentation that can be executed one step at a time. Despite the widespread use of these notebooks, people with disabilities, especially those who rely on assistive technology, can find it challenging to access and navigate them. This was a main topic of discussion of the Notebooks for All session during STScI’s Day of Accessibility in April 2023, organized by Jenn Kotler and her collaborators.

Several new, accessible Jupyter notebooks made by MAST staff were released for this event, including interactive tutorials to teach users how to use MAST’s large suite of tools. These notebooks are also accessible in HTML-based web versions for users who don’t wish to use a notebook in its native Python environment. The day-long workshop also included talks about additional accessibility efforts and hands-on activities to provide practical examples of how blind and visually impaired individuals access tech using screen readers. 

A New Face for the Archive

A significant part of making data more accessible to the public is giving our web interfaces a friendly “face.” A new Webb search form premiered in October of this year, an iteration of work done earlier to update the web search form for Hubble data to make it more accessible. Components from these search forms will also be used for a similar Roman search form to ensure that the telescope's data is accessible to all. 

Over the summer, MAST led an internship program that allowed participants to create art and music inspired by astronomical data within the archive. These creative outlets will become even more important as the public gains an even greater interest in astronomy. Moving forward, the astronomers and engineers who support MAST will constantly iterate and improve, releasing products that allow all researchers to dive into the data even faster each year.