Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) Education and Public Outreach (E/PO)
Since the spacecraft were launched in late 2006, the many and varied STEREO EPO efforts have touched upon people in just about every state and in many foreign countries as well. From classroom activities to public events, unique imagery for museums to student internships, the story of the first 3D solar mission has captured interest and engaged the public in the field of solar science. The STEREO project is involved in a diverse array of educational activities in the areas of formal and informal education.
The STEREO Science Center
STEREO Content for Museums and Science Centers: As part of the SOHO/STEREO Pick of the Week feature, STEREO images and movies are sent out two to four times a month to over 300 museums and science centers through ViewSpace kiosks and the American Museum of Natural History’s AstroBulletins. These movies are also made available and archived on the STEREO and SOHO web sites, and related video and stills have been featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day and Spaceweather.com sites. This activity is being carried out in partnership with the Living With a Star program.
360° Sun: Since February 2011 the STEREO spacecraft have been able to observe the far side of the Sun. This has made it possible to produce full 360° views of the entire Sun, something never before possible in history. STEREO marked this occasion with events organized through the NASA Museum Alliance and a Twitter question and answer session. STEREO and SDO now produce a combined full Sun data product which is made available to the Science on a Sphere (SOS) network, a NOAA program involving 80 installations of the SOS spherical display system. These movies can be adapted to other spherical display systems. For instance, STEREO’s SECCHI team members at JPL (see below) have made a movie formatted for the Magic Planet’s spherical display system, and Sun 360° data is also featured in smart phone and tablet applications.
The Sun Today (http://www.thesuntoday.org) is a social media site featuring data from STEREO and other solar missions. The goal of The Sun Today is to develop a community of solar and helio-enthusiasts from the general public, educators and students. The effort includes a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and YouTube components. The narrated YouTube videos have viewerships in the thousands and, in one case, over 200,000. Evaluation is done through statistics provided by these social media sites and allow for a better understanding of what sorts of techniques increase interest in particular items. For instance, narration or even annotations added to a video significantly enhance viewership and sharing. As a social media effort, the Sun Today is interactive and linked to the Helioviewer.org web site that allows the public to produce customized movies from STEREO and SDO data. The Sun Today is now being produced in partnership with Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division.
SSC web site (http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov) supports many of the above activities. It is a source for the publically available data, including the STEREO 360 images. Content has been regularly added, including the selection of highlights for The Best of STEREO Gallery and YouTube channel, space weather section, overview video clips, links, new activities, graphics, online posters, incremental additions to the Newsroom and What’s New sections. Visitors can access all of the images in the archive and even see movies on the spot for any period they select. The data is accessed by other web sites for educational purposes, including the Sun Today and Helioviewer.
STEREO’s SECCHI team members at JPL produce high quality, HD daily and weekly movies for museums using the data from STEREO’s SECCHI imaging suite. The movies are available to members of NASA’s Museum Alliance through the SolarMuse web site. They also produce and make available through SolarMuse movies of coronal mass ejections and other interesting events, some of which are also hosted on the SSC website and YouTube channel. A new SECCHI product is a high resolution Sun 360° movie constructed from STEREO and SECCHI EUV data for Magic Plant, a spherical projection system that is used in many museums and science centers.
These will be available on the SolarMuse web site for Museum Alliance members and also the SSC web site. They will also produce video of such targets of opportunity as comet ISON, which will near the Sun in Nov. 2013.
The STEREO/IMPACT team at UCB has been conducting many E/PO activities in partnership with NASA’s Wind mission. STEREO/IMPACT and Wind team members routinely presented science hands-on lessons for middle school students in the San Francisco Bay Area between 2009-2012. An estimated 800 or more students were reached in total. The students participated in an activity where, on their own, they discovered how to build a spacecraft with a magnetometer (i.e. putting it on a boom away from the rest of the electronics), like STEREO. They also heard about the heliophysics science and missions, including STEREO, and saw a brief presentation from a NASA scientist. The classroom visits were incorporated into the MASERS (Math, Science, and Engineering Resource Support) Program, which is a part of Community Resources for Science (CRS) effort to provide scientist "role model" presentations at schools throughout the East Bay. Teachers indicated that the science lessons were well received by their students and many of the students clearly understood the purpose of the magnetometer booms on STEREO.
STEREO/Impact and Wind partnered with the Surfin’ the Solar Wind (EPOESS) project to develop an interactive videogame exhibit called the CME Launcher. The game, which was designed with critical input from teenagers, engages participants in learning about the connection between magnetism and CMEs, and how space weather impacts people on Earth. Preliminary testing and evaluation has shown that the activity is meeting the goal of engaging underserved teens in out-of-school environments, and effectively changing their knowledge and attitudes about space weather.
STEREO/Impact and Wind team members also undertook three small outreach programs, a solar wind website dedicated to the science and discoveries of the solar wind; a sonification software program to turn STEREO Wind data into sounds, now available as open-source on the solar wind website for further development by the MAXMSP community; and a partnership with the National Park Service for a public event for the May 20, 2012 annular solar eclipse, presenting hands-on act activities and distributed NASA materials at a viewing event at Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over 200 people attended the event.
STEREO joined several other Heliophysics missions to present in the week-long Heliophysics Educator Ambassador (HEA) teacher workshops in 2009, 2010, and 2011. About 90, mostly-middle school HEA teachers from around the U.S. were reached directly (with measurable gains in Heliophysics content), with most of them teaching middle school. A majority of them went on to present their own workshops to their colleagues in their local districts. The program has already reached hundreds of teachers and the overall impact continues to grow.
The STEREO/PLASTIC team participates in a program for student interns in partnership with the Space Science Center of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire. The program includes a series of in-house lectures and facilities tours geared toward the students. Topics and contributors include STEREO as well as other missions in which UNH is involved. The lectures provide students with hardware, data analysis and theory backgrounds on the science projects they are working on and enhances their interest so that they are more likely to decide to stay in STEM and perhaps become graduate students in our field. The intern student pool includes other regional colleges and high schools in the area around Durham, including southern Maine, northern Massachusetts, and southern and central New Hampshire.
In the summer of 2010 the PLASTIC team sponsored a week long Summer Solar Science Symposium for K-12 educators in partnership with the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. Twenty-four educators participated, and all but one rated the workshop as very good to excellent in post workshop surveys.
PLASTIC team members participated in a number of other outreach programs. In the last two years these included co-teaching a teacher workshop in Gorham NH in partnership with a faculty member from the UNH Department of Education and giving lectures at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (MSDC)’s annual Aerospacefest. A PLASTIC scientist also participated in a Women in Science and Technology (WIST) Forum, sponsored by Space Grant and held in the White Mountains Community College in the north country of New Hampshire. The WIST program allows middle and high school girls from this rural area to meet and talk with professional women in STEM fields.
Goddard Space Flight Center
- Berkeley and Oakland middle schools (MASER)
- University of New Hampshire (teacher professional development)
- University of California, Berkeley, Surfin’ the Solar Wind project (CME Launcher)
- University of California, Berkeley (E/PO activities of IMPACT team)
- American Museum of Natural History, the Hubble Space Telescope Institute’s “Viewspace” program, NASA’s Museum Alliance, and NOAA’s Science on a Sphere program (content and materials distribution)
- SDO and Wind missions
Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 373
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 1382
Number of K-12 Teachers, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 1500
Effectiveness and Impact:
Overall, the STEREO project finds that their E/PO efforts are meeting the needs of the audiences for which the program is designed. Over the past 2.5 years this program has reached potentially millions of people who attend museums around the country, hundreds of thousands of members of the public through on-line efforts, hundreds of teachers through teacher professional development efforts, and over a thousand of middle, high school, and undergraduate students directly.
In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Cal Day attracted 350, 500, and 500 participants respectively. In the written evaluations collected, over 97% of the respondents stated that the event was a good use of their time, and a higher percentage said they would recommend it to a friend. Some notable quotes were, “It was incredibly cool. I came for my science class and learned a bunch,” “I was able to learn more about space and the Sun,” and “It was really interesting. I got to hear about NASA projects I didn’t know about.”