Johns Hopkins University Physics Fair
Multiple Year Involvement
Every April, OPO staff members and STScI scientists participate in the annual Johns Hopkins University Physics Fair. Visitors to our table are challenged to explore the electromagnetic spectrum by participating in an infrared camera demonstration and in explorations of light, color, and filters. Visitors also able to make comparisons between JWST and HST and discuss the latest discoveries and research in astronomy with Institute scientists. More than 700 visitors attend the Physics Fair each year, on average.
On January 19, 2013, NASA hosted a public star party at the David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington, Virginia, as part of activities held in honor of the presidential inauguration on January 21. Representatives from STScI operated telescopes, presented, answered questions about astronomy, and provided information about the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope. The star party was also attended by NASA astronauts, scientists, and Mars Curiosity systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, also known as “The Mohawk Guy.”
One evening each year, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., hosts free telescope viewing, astronomy exhibits, and hands-on activities as part of the annual Astronomy Night on the Mall event organized by Dr. Donald Lubowich of Hofstra University. Astronomers are also on hand to answer space-related questions from visitors. STScI’s Office of Public Outreach has participated in the event by providing telescopes, telescope operators, exhibits, and activities.
OPO worked in partnership with artist Tim Otto Roth, ESA, and STScI scientific staff to bring the “From the Distant Past: Decoding the Light of Hubble” laser installation to venues in the U.S. The laser art installation, which features spectra that are based upon Hubble observations of distant galaxies, was on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York from November 14 through November 27. Presenting astronomical spectra is a challenge because it is abstract and often misunderstood outside of the astronomical community. Our goal was to bridge this gap and help the public develop a greater appreciation of how light is used as a tool in astronomy while emphasizing Hubble’s contributions to our understanding of the universe. This was accomplished through a series of educational efforts (e.g., background materials on spectra, educational displays, a keynote presentation for New York educators, docent training) implemented in collaboration with AMNH.
A model of the James Webb Space Telescope arrived in Battery Park as part of the World Science Festival in New York City, 2010. There was more to do than just marvel. Once visitors took in the awe-inspiring sight, they could play with interactive exhibits, watch videos showing what we will learn from the Webb, and ask scientists on-hand about how the telescope works.
Multiple year involvement
Members of OPO have worked in collaboration with Institute astronomers, computer scientists, and engineers to staff a booth and lead hands-on activities during the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo. The Washington, D.C. Expo, is the culminating event of the two-week nationwide Festival dedicated to science and engineering. At STScI’s “Unveiling the Universe” booth, visitors of all ages interacted with Institute staff and participated in a variety of hands-on activities to learn how space telescopes, light, and filters help us explore and learn about the universe. Several Hubble images were used to extend the activities and discuss expected findings from JWST. The Expo, which was free and open to the public, is estimated to draw as many as 500,000 visitors, with thousands of visitors stopping by the STScI booth. OPO has participated as an official partner of the USA Science & Engineering Festival.
In October 2009, during the International Year of Astronomy, President Obama hosted a star party on the south lawn of the White House. NASA scientists and astronauts (including Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride) mingled with local schoolchildren to explore a variety of hands-on activities and view the stars, the Moon, and Jupiter through dozens of telescopes. After an address by the president about the importance of science education and the ability of astronomy to inspire, he, the first lady, and their daughters joined in the activities and looked through telescopes as well. Representatives from STScI attended the star party and operated telescopes.