Program Highlights: 2019

Feb. 2019

A busy exhibit hall at the Cambridge Science Festival.

The Habitable Zone

The video series “The Habitable Zone” provides an introduction to exoplanet science through the framework of a science fiction narrative. Principle goals of the series:

  • Explore the many conditions required for “habitability” beyond merely how far away a planet is from its star.

  • Depict science as a process of investigation and discovery.

  • Show a diverse cast enthusiastically engaged in scientific pursuits

Include “after-show” videos with astronomers discussing the science topics covered in each episode.

The first episode, “Goldilocks Paradox” and its four after-show segments are available now from the Universe Unplugged website (, YouTube, and iTunes. The second episode, “Scorched Earth Enigma,” will be released in mid-2019.

The Universe Unplugged videos are part of a new generation of experiences being developed by the NASA’s Universe of Learning program. The effort combines a direct connection to the science and scientists of NASA’s Astrophysics missions with attention to audience needs to enable youth, families, and lifelong learners to explore fundamental questions in science, experience how science is done, and discover the universe for themselves.

National Science Olympiad logo

Shedding New Light on the Whirlpool Galaxy

The Whirlpool Galaxy provides a spectacular example of the striking appearance of a spiral galaxy. While visible light observations may showcase the bright stars and emission nebulae, infrared observations can provide greater detail into the dust distribution, and x-ray observations can highlight the largest of the star-forming regions.

Using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s Universe of Learning has combined three correlated models of the Whirlpool Galaxy into one multi-wavelength visualization. The visualization explores both 2D and 3D comparisons to demonstrate the variety of components in the structure of a spiral galaxy as well as the diverse insights and learning enabled by multi-wavelength astronomy. Each spectral region illustrates a different component of the stars, gas, and dust that comprise the galaxy. By both separating and combining views across seven wavelength regions, astronomers gain a broader and richer look into the detailed structure of a spiral galaxy.

Participants experience and photograph a supernova exhibit at Brown University.

Girl Scouts Rhode Island Juniors

NASA’s Universe of Learning conducted a 2-hour workshop of coding, circuits & virtual reality with Girl Scouts, RI/Juniors (ages 10-11) in Warwick, RI on February 28, 2019 in celebration of the International Day of Women & Girls in Science.

Binary coding, data visualization & stellar evolution were introduced before running Binary Code and Recoloring the Universe hands-on activities. Participants toured Chandra's virtual reality apps of the Galactic Center and created their glowing galaxy through the Maker paper circuit activity. Materials on coding, Women in Science & Chandra spacecraft were handed out.


3D modeling & printing with rural communities

NASA’s Universe of Learning & team members from (Chandra/SAO) conducted four 1-hour talks for 120 youth in Thomaston, Maine, covering a brief overview of astronomical imaging. Data visualization & 3D modeling/printing were also included. The talks included a live demonstration of the printing of a data-driven 3D model (V745 SCO) and a discussion with students about their own experiences with 3D-printing classroom projects. Students practiced using modeling software to tackle a real-world problem working with digital models and actual science data.


Jan. 2019

Two students engage in a Webb Telescope research activity with a laptop and printed information at a Barclay after school event.

An Evening of Symphonic and Cinematic Astronomy

At the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, NASA’s Universe of Learning and the Space Telescope Science Institute worked with the AAS and Music Productions to present “An Evening of Symphonic and Cinematic Astronomy.” The evening consisted of a presentation of spectacular astronomy visuals set to captivating music, including the West Coast premiere of the film Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of Our Universe.

Approximately 700 people attended this event that was open to the public. All of the videos are available for viewing along with additional details at the event page.



Engaging the Science Community at the 233rd AAS

NASA’s Universe of Learning team organized and participated in several events at the 233rd Winter AAS meant to engage the science community in support of STEM learning.

  • Members from each of the five partner institutions and external evaluation team provided resources and ways to support STEM learning through a hands-on training workshop and solicited feedback from the community on the astrophysics stories of today and tomorrow, as well as piloted an astrophysics Subject Matter Expert database.

  • Additional efforts included a team meeting, large public video night, Live from AAS! Science Briefing, five oral presentations, one poster, and two NASA Hyperwall talks.