3D-Printing Enables The Blind To Experience Outer Space Through Touch

Scientists have converted 2D Hubble space images into tactile models, allowing the blind to feel the stars with their hands.

Looking up and seeing the stars is an activity that most people take for granted. For those who cannot see the celestial wonders of outer space, the Space Telescope Science Institute is exploring the possibility of create tactile 3D printed versions of constellations captured by the Hubble telescope.

Astronomers Carol Christian and Antonella Nota have been experimenting with 3D printing for the past several months, to come up with models of constellations that will be used in astronomy education for the blind and those with different learning capabilities. The challenge lies mostly in the fact that we do not actually know the three-dimensional structure of stars captured by the telescope.

hubble-3D-printing

Nota explained in a press release:

It’s very easy to take any tool or object that you can actually measure and produce a 3-D printout. But it’s very hard to think of an astronomical object about which you know very little. It’s really hard to understand their 3-D structure. The work is scientific, but it’s also guesswork and artistry to try to produce an object, which printed, will look like the image that Hubble has taken. So, we are basically designing the process from scratch.

Part of the project involves determining how to represent the different elements that make up stars – creating different tactility for the gas, filaments and dust that form into a star cluster.

Christian and Nota hope to one day create a full series of tactile models of Hubble images to be used in educational settings such as schools and libraries.

Space Telescope Science Institute

Source/Images: Hubble Site

 

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