Press Release

NASA Helps Visually Impaired Students Touch the Sun

By SpaceRef Editor
December 15, 2004
Filed under , ,
NASA Helps Visually Impaired Students Touch the Sun
http://images.spaceref.com/news/sun.10.jpg

A new book, “Touch the Sun,” allows blind and visually
impaired students to experience images of the sun and solar
activity by feeling transparent raised textures bonded to the
pictures.

The book features arresting images from the Solar and
Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the Transition Region and
Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft, as well as a close-up of
a sunspot from the National Solar Observatory at Sacramento
Peak in the Lincoln National Forest, N.M.

“Invisible magnetic fields rule the violent solar activity
that generates space weather,” said Dr. Joseph Gurman, the
U.S. project scientist for SOHO at NASA’s Goddard Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “We are all blind to magnetic
fields, so the visually impaired can be just as successful as
the sighted in solar science,” he explained. Gurman
collaborated with Steele Hill, the SOHO imaging specialist at
Goddard, to select the images and edit the scientific
content.

The book was written by Noreen Grice, author of two other
books featuring textured celestial images for the visually
impaired: “Touch the Universe” and “Touch the Stars.” “Touch
the Sun” was funded by a partnership among NASA, the Lockheed
Martin Corporation’s Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto,
Calif., and the Stanford Solar Center, Stanford University,
Stanford, Calif.

Approximately 2,500 copies will be printed. The majority will
be distributed free to blind and visually impaired students,
with the assistance of the National Organization of Parents
of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of
the Blind. The remainder will be available for public
purchase.

“Touch the Sun brings exciting new discoveries in solar
science to those who otherwise might not have a chance to
participate,” said Deputy Director of Earth-Sun Systems, Dick
Fisher at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “This is an integral
part of what NASA hopes to accomplish with the new Vision for
Space Exploration — to share the thrill of exploring space
with everyone,” he explained.

Sample pages will be presented during the fall meeting of the
American Geophysical Union, at the press conference
“Innovations in Geoscience Education.” The event is today at
6 p.m. EST (3 p.m. PST) at the Moscone Convention Center in
San Francisco. The estimated publication date is March or
April 2005.

“Our bright yellow star appears unchanging but in fact is an
active, violent place that directly affects our home planet,”
Grice said. “Touch the Sun is a universally designed book for
readers of all visual abilities. You can explore the sun with
embossed color pictures of swirling gas currents, dark
sunspots, curving magnetic fields and explosive eruptions,”
she said.

Raised patterns embossed over the images in “Touch the Sun”
translate colors, shapes and other intricate details of the
sun and space weather, allowing visually impaired people to
feel what they cannot see. It incorporates Braille and large-
print descriptions for each of the book’s 16 photographs, so
it is accessible to readers of all visual abilities.

Students at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in
Colorado Springs, Colo., evaluated each image for clarity and
provided suggestions for improvement.

Gurman initiated “Touch the Sun” after he saw “Touch the
Universe” presented at the June 2002 meeting of the American
Astronomical Society in Albuquerque, N.M. “I realized solar
science was a natural fit for a book like this, and our
partners did as well. This was one of those rare projects
where there was no resistance to the idea. Everyone who heard
about it was enthusiastic,” Gurman said.

“Touch the Sun” will be published by the Joseph Henry Press,
trade imprint of the National Academies Press (publisher for
the National Academy of Sciences). To view related images on
the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/touch_sun.html

SpaceRef staff editor.