January 16, 2008

Touch the Invisible Sky

Yesterday, NASA released its third and latest book about astronomy that's written in Braille for the visually-impaired. The book uses Braille, large type print, and tactile diagrams of celestial images observed by the Hubble (visible light), Chandra (X-Ray), and Spitzer (Infrared) space telescopes to provide the visually-impaired a better understanding of what celestial objects are like that we, the sighted, take for granted. Some additional information about the book:

Touch the Invisible Sky was authored by astronomy educator and accessibility specialist Noreen Grice of You Can Do Astronomy LLC and Museum of Science, Boston, astronomer Simon Steel of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, and astronomer Doris Daou of NASA. NASA funded the astronomy Braille book, which was publicly released Tuesday, January 15, 2008.

The tactile diagrams feature raised outlines and textures superimposed on the images themselves to indicate how the objects appear differently according to wavelength viewed in – for example, radio, infrared, visible, ultra-violet, or x-ray. The text clearly and concisely explains what each image shows, and even describes how the different types of telescopes capture the images.

The Braille and the tactile diagrams are done in clear acrylic overlay, so the large print type and high-resolution color images can be viewed as well as felt. Touch the Invisible Sky is therefore a useful teaching tool for mainstream classrooms and parents with blind children, making the same information accessible simultaneously by sighted, non-sighted, and reduced-vision readers.

Below is a sample page from Touch the Universe of the Ring Nebula, giving an idea of the textural aspects given to the visual image. The other book in the series is Touch the Sun.

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