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A wide view that shows a room’s walls and floor covered in projections of an artistic interpretation of the James Webb Space Telescope’s view of the Cosmic Cliffs in the Carina Nebula. Undulating lines look like they are tracing mountain ridges along the walls and ceiling, and these orangish cloudy formations vary in density and range from translucent to opaque. Toward the top of the walls, and more toward the right, the scene is filled with deep blues, and speckled with stars of many sizes. At left is a door where there appear to be other brightly lit screens in another room. A few people are seated on the floor at left in the main room. Toward the center are five people, some sitting and some standing. The three to the right are presenting to the crowd. Two TV monitors, located to the left and right of the speakers, showcase two images of a star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation. The leftmost image shows the Pillars of Creation taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, while the rightmost shows the Pillars of Creation taken by Webb.

Our multi-disciplinary public engagement staff worked together to create new, accessible products and host events for the public.

About This Article

As Hubble and Webb space telescopes continue to produce data to improve our knowledge of the universe, the institute has been busy creating and offering unique experiences for the public to learn about their discoveries. Not only does our public outreach team publicize researchers’ findings, they also ensure that our online releases are accessible, publishing supportive visualizations and graphics, and complementary alternative text for visitors who rely on screen readers. Our team members also frequently share the telescopes’ findings during in-person events, extending the excitement about what Webb accomplished over its first full year of science operations—and what Hubble continues to produce after more than 30 years of operations. From start to finish, 2023 has overflowed with opportunities for the public to explore the universe.

Producing Captivating Events

Scene from an event at an exhibit hall. In the foreground is a man dressed in black and smiling, facing a child using a VR headset to his right. The boy is about half his height and wears a VR headset and holds a controller in his hand. A large flat screen shows what the boy is viewing at right. ON the screen, there’s a large circle with some white clouds above it, along with a series of numbers and details at left and right.
Our public outreach team attended Kids’ Week at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in February. Chad Smith led the use of WebbVR, a free virtual reality experience that lets users “travel” through space. 

In February, our staff supported Kids’ Week at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, which was attended by roughly 11,600 visitors. Our team introduced the light-based science that is at the core of our telescopes, and WebbVR, a free virtual reality environment that immerses users in a variety of settings, from our own solar system to distant galaxies.

In celebration of the anniversary of Webb’s first year of science operations in July, our staff gave talks and led hands-on activities at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, Maryland. Attendees were supported by an assortment of astronomers, educators, and writers, who shared Webb’s capabilities and early discoveries.

Those who attended the “Beyond the Light” art exhibition developed in collaboration with NASA at ARTECHOUSE DC in November were able to interact with Webb in unprecedented ways. This event flooded attendees’ senses with artistically rendered Webb imagery, which literally surrounded them on the walls, floors, and ceilings. Several of our staff presented during a special event to explain the capabilities of both Hubble and Webb, the science behind the telescopes’ images, and how those full-color images are created.

At these events, many members of the public asked about what we’ve learned since Webb began observing our vast universe. This is no doubt in part thanks to the real-world impact Webb has had over this year—Webb’s first full year of normal science operations.

New Ways to Follow Along

For those interested in following Hubble and Webb’s ongoing observations more closely, our team released an updated version of Space Telescope Live for Hubble and Webb. Visitors can now monitor both Hubble and Webb’s current, past, and upcoming observations—and explore what they’re looking at on interactive sky maps. Not only does the site have the most accurate, up-to-date, and expansive range of details about each observation, it is all sourced directly from the institute.

Four people sitting on stools in front of walls and the floor that are covered in a projected image from the Webb Space Telescope, which shines in shades of red, orange, and blue and looks like a mountain range filled with stars.
In front of a packed house, STScI’s Dr. Quyen Hart, Alyssa Pagan, and Joe DePasquale spoke about their work on the James Webb Space Telescope at the ARTECHOUSE in Washington, D.C., in October. ARTECHOUSE’s exhibit “Beyond the Light,” which was developed in collaboration with NASA, was an artistic expression of scientific discoveries with stunning imagery and findings from the telescopes. 
Three people having a discussion. On the left is a man who is standing with glasses in a blue, short-sleeved shirt and black shorts with his hands on his hips. Next to him is a child in an orange, short-sleeved shirt and tan shorts. They are both talking to a woman across a table. She has black hair, and is wearing glasses and a long-sleeved, black shirt. To their right is a large-scale poster of a Webb image.
Yesenia Pérez Fina explained Webb’s science to a man and child at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. This was one of hundreds of Webb community events hosted across the U.S. in celebration of Webb’s First Year of Science. 

With all of these data, the institute’s staff members keep in mind their mission to make astronomy accessible to as many people as possible. To that end, we’ve continued to work hard to identify accessibility concerns and solve these issues. This shift has become woven into the institute’s culture with every product, including our websites, where designers and curators have implemented many updates to improve navigation and further support users with and without disabilities. Our efforts were recognized by American Council of the Blind, which awarded the Space Telescope Science Institute its 2023 Audio Description Project Award in the public sector category.

Not only do our staff support Hubble and Webb, they are also actively working to share the upcoming science of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will take vast surveys of the sky following its launch. With every new project, our team of scientists, educators, writers, designers, website curators, and developers aim to innovate and excite. But our staff cannot do this alone. They are also dedicated to learning from the public, whose questions, comments, and observations will continue to be crucial in designing future products that educate, and delight, everyone.

A field of galaxies on the black background of space. In the middle, stretching from left to right, is a collection of dozens of yellowish spiral and elliptical galaxies that form a foreground galaxy cluster. Among them are distorted linear features created when the light of a background galaxy is bent and magnified through gravitational lensing. At center left, a particularly prominent example stretches vertically about three times the length of a nearby galaxy. It is outlined by a white box, and a lightly shaded wedge leads to an enlarged view at the bottom right. The linear feature is reddish and curves gently. It is studded with about a half dozen bright clumps. One such spot near the middle of the feature is labeled “Mothra.”
This image of galaxy cluster MACS 0416, created with data from both Hubble and Webb, highlights a gravitationally lensed background galaxy that existed about 3 billion years after the big bang. That galaxy contains a transient, an object that varies in observed brightness over time, that the science team nicknamed “Mothra.” This star is magnified at least 4,000 times. Read more about the telescopes' joint observations.