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News Release 5 of 30

November 21, 2002 12:00 AM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2002-28

Hands-On Book of Hubble Images Allows the Visually Impaired to "Touch the Universe"

November 21, 2002: A new book of majestic images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope brings the wonders of our universe to the fingertips of the blind. Called "Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy," the 64-page WATCH: HubbleMinute Video HubbleMinute: "Touch the Universe" HubbleMinute: "Touch the Universe"  book presents color images of planets, nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures. The raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects, allowing visually impaired people to feel what they cannot see. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's 14 photographs, making the design of this book accessible to readers of all visual abilities.

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Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. How are the Hubble images presented in the book?

  2. "Touch the Universe" takes the reader on a cosmic journey, beginning with an image of the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth and then traveling outward into the universe, showing objects such as Jupiter and the Ring Nebula. The journey ends with the Hubble Deep Field North, an image revealing thousands of galaxies billions of light-years away.

  3. 2. Who came up with the idea for the book?

  4. Bernhard Beck-Winchatz, an astronomer at DePaul University in Chicago, got the idea for the book while browsing through a museum gift shop where he saw a tactile astronomy book called "Touch the Stars," written by Noreen Grice. The book contains tactile line drawings of objects such as constellations, planets, and galaxies. Grice, operations coordinator for the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, has been making astronomical pictures accessible to the blind for 18 years.

    "I thought that Noreen's book 'Touch the Stars' was a wonderful idea, especially because astronomy is thought of as a visual science," Beck-Winchatz explains. "At the same time, when I saw the book and her sketches, I thought there was so much more we could do. I thought it would be intriguing to create similar tactile pictures based on real Hubble Space Telescope images."

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Photo Credit: Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and STScI

Book Credit: NASA, Noreen Grice (Boston Museum of Science), Bernhard Beck-Winchatz (DePaul University), and Benning Wentworth III (Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind)