Public Outreach

The public outreach team at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) shares cutting-edge scientific discoveries and knowledge of the universe in ways that inspire, excite, challenge, and inform the public through events at public venues, large-scale exhibits and displays, interactive websites, multimedia and video content, social media, and a range of print products. We also share our expertise and content with other organizations and groups to increase our reach.

Ultimately, our programming and events raise awareness of and increase the public’s interest in NASA’s space telescope missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Illustration of the Hubble telescope

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE

Illustration of the James Webb Telescope

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE

Illustration of WFIRST telescope

WIDE FIELD INFRARED SURVEY TELESCOPE

Engaging the Public

We participate in national, regional, and local events to provide members of the public opportunities to interact with science experts, connect with diverse audiences, and raise awareness of our missions’ discoveries and our online resources. Throughout the years, we have created exhibits and displays that showcase astronomical discoveries and imagery in public venues like airports, art galleries, museums, and festivals. We have also produced resources for science organizations, observatories, astronomy departments, and scientists seeking to increase their public outreach efforts through events, exhibits, and talks.

In addition to representing STScI and our missions at STEM festivals, we also support NASA’s presence at major events, like South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and Artscape in Baltimore, Maryland, by providing exhibits, speakers, and interactive content; coordinating telescopic viewing opportunities; and leading hands-on demonstrations. We also collaborate with organizations to incorporate astronomical content into public programming, cultural events and milestones, and exhibits.

Man looking through a telescope and a child using filter glasses at astronomy event on the National Mall
Astronomy Night on the National Mall
One evening each year, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., hosts free telescope viewing, astronomy exhibits, and hands-on activities as part of the annual Astronomy Night on the Mall event, organized by Dr. Donald Lubowich of Hofstra University. Astronomers are also on site to answer space-related questions from visitors. In addition to contributing to the event planning, our astronomers and educators answer questions and assist with hands-on activities.
STScI outreach staff member speaks in front of a group of children
Engaging Youth in Their Communities
We present at community organizations to provide interactive experiences that engage youth in astronomy. In 2017, we visited the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center, a collaborative effort of Fairfax County, Cornerstones, and the Connections for Hope Partnership. Our astronomers and educators gave presentations about our observatories and provided hands-on activities.
STScI outreach staff member sharing astronomy related activities with student
Inspiring Girls and Young Women with STEM Activities
The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University hosts an annual, free event for middle and high school girls to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in Laurel, Maryland. Our staff engage the audience in activities relating to astronomy, including light and color, and the electromagnetic spectrum.
STScI staff engage with children at an outreach event, children are trying on filter glasses
Empowering Youth with Our University Partners

Every April, staff members and scientists participate in the Johns Hopkins University Physics Fair in Baltimore, Maryland. Visitors are challenged to explore the electromagnetic spectrum by participating in an infrared camera demonstration and in explorations of light, color, and filters. Visitors are also able to make comparisons between the capabilities of the James Webb and Hubble space telescopes, and discuss the latest discoveries and research in astronomy with our scientists.

Children trying out filter glasses at an outreach event
Supporting NASA Initiatives
The NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) engages underrepresented populations through a variety of initiatives, including an event that allows youth to investigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and provides parents with educational resources. Our astronomers and events staff offer hands-on experiences, including investigating how filters are used as tools in astronomy.
Image shows a large group of people in front of a life-sized model of the James Webb Telescope
Exhibiting at Large-scale Public Events
South by Southwest (SXSW) is known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. A life-sized model of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been on display, and our astronomers and educators are frequently on hand in the exhibit hall to share the wonders of the telescope with the public, including informative events, interactive activities, and visualizations. Credit: NASA.
STScI staff member demonstrates an infrared camera to several children at an outdoor arts festival
Connecting Art and Science
Artscape, the country’s largest free arts festival, attracts more than 350,000 attendees over three days in July in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to featuring art exhibits and live concerts, it includes a full schedule of performing arts, theater, film, and family events. We contribute to NASA’s exhibition through hands-on demonstrations that allow visitors to experience their world in infrared light, use augmented reality to explore space-based telescopes, and learn about solar systems beyond our own.

Explore Our Content

Sharpless 2-106 Nebula
Hubble Images
Illustration of James Webb Space Telescope
Webb Telescope
Asteroids in Hubble Frontier Field Abell 370
Hubble Discoveries
Artist's concept of exoplanets
Webb Science
Still from Tonight's Sky (a monthly guide to the heavens)
Hubble Blogs
Two images of the Helix Nebula depicting how it would be seen in 2 different visual spectrums
Infrared Universe
Image of Hubble Space Telescope during a servicing mission
'IMAX: Hubble 3-D'
Audience at a public lecture being given at STScI
Public Lectures
People interacting with a touchscreen at a STScI event
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Producing Interactive Content

We create materials that range from awe-inspiring images and short videos to in-depth articles and inspiring social media posts that explain core astrophysics concepts. For example, HubbleSite.org and WebbTelescope.org provide detailed information about our telescope missions and their science. We also have a strong social media presence to engage the public; in addition to Facebook and Twitter channels, we are on Instagram and YouTube. Our posts include astronomy visualizations that explain everything from star collisions and perspectives on spiral galaxies to monthly guides to stargazing to showcase constellations, deep-sky objects, planets, and events.

Our work also reaches the public through an array of technologies. For example, we have created visualization frame sets for use in documentaries and films, and adapted visualizations for planetarium full-dome formats and 360-degree virtual reality (VR) formats. We have contributed astronomical visualizations to NASA’s hyperwalls, which showcase breathtaking, multi-sensory panoramas of high-definition imagery. These projects allow our team to combine images, illustrations, and videos to tell complete stories of astronomical topics. Our team has also developed, piloted, and refined the Space Telescope Augmented Reality (STAR) app (for Apple and Android) to allow users to explore 3-D models of the Hubble, James Webb, and WFIRST space telescopes.

The scientific visualizations and materials we produce allow the public to directly interact with current scientific data and visualize complex processes. We will continue to evolve how we communicate science with new technologies.

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