All author's publications are listed below.
Astronomy has been an inherently visual area of science for millenia, yet a majority of its significant discoveries take place in wavelengths beyond human vision. There are many people, including those with low or no vision, who cannot participate fully in such discoveries if visual media is the primary communication mechanism. Numerous efforts have worked to address equity of accessibility to such knowledge sharing, such as through the creation of three-dimensional (3D) printed data sets. This paper describes progress made through technological and programmatic developments in tactile 3D models using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to improve access to data.
This study explored how different presentations of an object in deep space affect understanding, engagement, and aesthetic appreciation. A total of n = 2,502 respondents to an online survey were randomly assigned to one of 11 versions of Cassiopeia A, comprising 6 images and 5 videos ranging from 3s to approximately 1min. Participants responded to intial items regarding what the image looked like, the aesthetic appeal of the image, perceptions of understanding, and how much the participant wanted to learn more. After the image was identified, participants indicated the extent to which the label increased understanding and how well the image represented the object. A final item asked for questions about the image for an atronomer. Results suggest that alternative types of images can and should be used, provided they are accompanied by explanations. Qualitative data indicated that explanations should include information about colors used, size, scale, and location of the object. The results are discussed in terms of science communication to the public in the face of increasing use of technology.
Modern society has led many people to become consumers of data unlike previous generations. How this shift in the way information is communicated and received — including in areas of science — and affects perception and comprehension is still an open question. This study examined one aspect of this digital age: perceptions of astronomical images and their labels, on mobile platforms. Participants were n = 2183 respondents to an online survey, and two focus groups (n = 12 astrophysicists; n = 11 lay public). Online participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 12 images, and compared two label formats. Focus groups compared mobile devices and label formats. Results indicated that the size and quality of the images on the mobile devices affected label comprehension and engagement. The question label format was significantly preferred to the fun fact. Results are discussed in terms of effective science communication using technology.
“From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU) is a collection of astronomical images that showcase some of the most popular, current views of our Universe. The images, representing the wide variety of astronomical objects known to exist, have so far been exhibited in about 500 locations throughout the world as part of the International Year of Astronomy. In the United States, over 40 FETTU exhibits have occurred in 25 states in such locations as libraries, airports, nature centers, parks and college campuses. Based on preliminary evaluations currently underway, this project – a large-scale, worldwide astronomy outreach in non-traditional locations – has unique opportunities and implications for informal science learning. We present some early findings from the observational section of the exhibit’s formal evaluation in five selected locations in the U.S. and U.K., including emphasis on inter-organizational networking, visitor attention and participant make-up as well as generative aspects of the exhibit.