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HubbleSite Hubble Images Become Tactile 3-D Experience for the Blind

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Space Telescope Science



Three-dimensional printers are transforming the business, medical, and consumer landscape by creating a vast variety of objects, including airplane parts, football cleats, lamps, jewelry, and even artificial human bones.

Now astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., are experimenting with the innovative technology to transform astronomy education by turning images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope into tactile 3-D pictures for people who cannot explore celestial wonders by sight. The 3-D print design is also useful and intriguing for sighted people who have different learning styles. In the 3-D representations, stars, filaments, gas, and dust shown in Hubble images of the bright star cluster NGC 602 have been transformed through 3-D printing into textures, appearing as raised open circles, lines, and dots in the 3-D printout. These features also have different heights to correspond with their brightness.

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