Throughout nature, there is beauty. Astronomical images provide an opportunity to observe the far reaches of the cosmos and witness the magnificent splendor of the Universe. But is there a line drawn between the art (the intrinsic beauty of astronomical images) and the science (the astrophysical processes embedded in the observed data)? Can such images be presented in new contexts to emphasize both their artistic and scientific merits?

Presenting high‐energy astronomical images from NASA’s Chandra X‐ray Observatory – along with images from other space and ground‐based telescopes ‐‐ outside of the science center or planetarium would allow a unique experience and create opportunities for new audiences, context and exploration. Several initiatives involving Chandra are currently in the planning stages or already underway. For example, Chandra has a key role in cornerstone project “From Earth to the Universe” for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009. This project will showcase images from all types of cosmic radiation, hopefully on each of the six major continents. We are also working on an art installation packaged with handouts and online activities that utilize pairings of Chandra images with renowned photographer Yann Arthus‐ Bertrand’s aerial imaging of Earth structures to stimulate visual learning about large and small scale structures. Discussions have also been held about exhibiting Chandra and other astronomical images in such non‐traditional astronomy settings as art schools and museums, outdoor festivals, and more. We will discuss the possibilities, as well as the potential rewards and obstacles, in trying to take astronomy out of the textbook and the planetarium and into every day life of the general public.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Non-traditional presentations of astronomical images to the general public

Kimberly Arcand   Chandra X-ray Center

Megan Watzke   Chandra X-ray Center

Throughout nature, there is beauty. Astronomical images provide an opportunity to observe the far reaches of the cosmos and witness the magnificent splendor of the Universe. But is there a line drawn between the art (the intrinsic beauty of astronomical images) and the science (the astrophysical processes embedded in the observed data)? Can such images be presented in new contexts to emphasize both their artistic and scientific merits?

Presenting high‐energy astronomical images from NASA’s Chandra X‐ray Observatory – along with images from other space and ground‐based telescopes ‐‐ outside of the science center or planetarium would allow a unique experience and create opportunities for new audiences, context and exploration. Several initiatives involving Chandra are currently in the planning stages or already underway. For example, Chandra has a key role in cornerstone project “From Earth to the Universe” for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009. This project will showcase images from all types of cosmic radiation, hopefully on each of the six major continents. We are also working on an art installation packaged with handouts and online activities that utilize pairings of Chandra images with renowned photographer Yann Arthus‐ Bertrand’s aerial imaging of Earth structures to stimulate visual learning about large and small scale structures. Discussions have also been held about exhibiting Chandra and other astronomical images in such non‐traditional astronomy settings as art schools and museums, outdoor festivals, and more. We will discuss the possibilities, as well as the potential rewards and obstacles, in trying to take astronomy out of the textbook and the planetarium and into every day life of the general public.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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