We keep Hubble science and technology at the forefront of public awareness of space science.
The OPO News branch is at the heart of STScI’s public outreach activities. The news team is responsible for soliciting information on and publicizing the scientific discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. This mission is accomplished through news releases, televised NASA press conferences, science meeting press conferences, and media coordination. These activities require the maintenance of a strong working relationship with major domestic and international news producers. In addition to being directly used by print, television, and online journalists, news products cascade into all other OPO branches.
The mainstay of our news activities is the creation and dissemination of press and photo releases covering scientific advancements made by the Hubble Space Telescope. News release packages typically include informational text, images, illustrations, animations, video interviews, and supplemental background information. They are distributed to news organizations worldwide, which use them to build their own coverage — and often place them without modification directly into television broadcasts, print publication, and online services. News conferences and teleconferences are scheduled for discoveries of exceptional scientific merit and public interest.
OPO’s News branch actively engages with the media, answering questions, providing context, and explaining the importance of Hubble science. Astronomical discoveries are dense, with unfamiliar concepts, complex ideas, and highly technical details, which make back-and-forth interaction between expert, astronomers and the media essential for Hubble news to accurately and effectively reach the public.
In the Media
The People and the Process
The Office of Public Outreach’s news team prepares media releases that
announce science results based on Hubble’s observations. The OPO News
Office publicizes the work of any scientist who works with the Hubble
Observatory, an international mission. This includes astronomers at
STScI, across the U.S., and all over the world.
The news process begins with members of OPO’s news team talking to one or more of the scientists involved with the Hubble-related research about the scientific results and why those results would be of interest to a larger audience.
Based on that conversation, a science writer crafts a news story that describes the results and their implications in an engaging and easily accessible way, often explaining arcane concepts in terms that are understandable to most non-scientists.
Additional news team members develop visuals to accompany the release that help explain and illustrate the results. Image processors produce images from astronomical data, maximizing the aesthetic value while preserving their scientific validity. Graphic artists and illustrators design illustrations, diagrams, and informational graphics to help make abstract concepts more understandable, and to create artwork that visualize scenes not possible with imaging.
Data visualizers translate the data analysis and numerical models into still and moving images and 3D models. Video producers create video pieces suitable for broadcast and online distribution, including informational motion graphics, interviews, b-roll, and fully produced documentary-style pieces.
All release materials are developed in collaboration with astronomers —
both within OPO and those involved with the discovery — to ensure that
the explanations and visuals remain scientifically valid and relate the
science accurately. In addition, NASA and STScI policy requires the
science results be reported in a refereed scientific paper or at a
professional conference, such as the American Astronomical Society
meeting, before a release based on those results is issued.
STScI news staff collaborates with the HST Project, NASA’s Public Affairs Office, ESA/Hubble, and public affairs offices of astronomers’ professional institutions to coordinate releases among the organizations, sharing content and editing text and visuals as needed. For higher-profile releases, STScI OPO News staff work with public information staff at NASA and other institutions to arrange press conferences via voice telecons, online webinars, and broadcast television.
For publication, the release and related materials are made public through the HubbleSite NewsCenter website, working with OPO’s online outreach team.
OPO news team members also work with producers from many organizations worldwide (such as the BBC, NHK, IMAX, and PBS) that are developing documentaries and other productions requiring interviews with STScI staff and other content.
The news releases and images produced by OPO’s News Office appeal to a variety of audiences.
Hubble has fulfilled its promise of contributing greatly to the advancement of astronomy, and many of OPO’s news releases appeal to an audience interested in learning about the cutting-edge science conducted by Hubble. The Deep Field programs exemplify the most significant science from Hubble, even though the images illustrating these results are not as visually appealing as many others. The latest result, known as the Hubble Extreme Deep Field is a combination of all of the deep field observations to date, including the detection of some of the most distant galaxies known.
Aesthetically pleasing images appeal to a wide audience. The Horsehead Nebula exemplifies an image release that involves an interesting and dramatic image but that does not include a significant new science discovery.
Other releases simply capture the public’s imagination for other reasons. For example, Pluto, at the outer reaches of the solar system, continues to be a very popular subject. Hubble’s recent discovery of a moon of Pluto captured the public’s imagination more than many other solar system observations or even any other science findings.