2011 Annual Science Report

VPL at University of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: VPL Education and Public Outreach Products

Project Progress

Night Sky Network Astrobiology Outreach Toolkit: The Night Sky Network is comprised of over 370 amateur astronomy clubs around the United States that engage students and the public with hands-on astronomy activities. A “Life in the Universe Outreach ToolKit” was completed in July to assist amateur astronomy clubs in conducting outreach and education events related to the search for life in our galaxy. The kit contains easy-to-use activities that explain science and technology concepts related to astrobiology in engaging ways, enriched with real-life examples from NASA astrobiology-related missions and science programs. The kit is designed to be used in a variety of settings, including classrooms, youth group meetings, community college events, and – of course – outside while stargazing.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has distributed more than 100 ToolKits to active astronomy clubs across the US. These clubs have already logged more than 50 events in the first 3 months of use. These events reached over 4,000 visitors to star parties, planetariums, as well as scout and club meetings. A very successful teleconference was held with David Morrison on July 28th with 88 Night Sky Network members in attendance.

Extreme Planet Makeover Interactive: VPL has developed an immersive interactive simulation for students and the general public. The Extreme Planet Makeover allows users to shape the appearance and habitability of their own hypothetical planet by changing factors such as distance from star, age, and size. The planets they create in the interactive program can then be compared to others via an image gallery that has 3d models of planets in our solar system and beyond. Users can also download and print a picture of their planet to share with family and friends. This interactive tool has been distributed on the VPL and PlanetQuest websites, and will be made available to museums and other informal education venues. It has received media attention from the Washington Post (print and online versions) as well as prominent science and technology blogs like BoingBoing and iO9.