Whether we are feeling the warmth from our closest star, the Sun, during the day, or learning about the majestic array of planets, stars, and galaxies in the greater Universe, the sky connects us all. With this kit of activities, we invite you to explore aspects of your Universe with us. The Touchable Universe kit contains five 3D prints created from NASA data including three models from Chandra: Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (which also uses NASA infrared and ground-based optical data), Supernova 1987a, and the double star system and nova V745 SCO; as well as two models from Hubble and other data: Eta Carina, a bright star system, and the star-formation region known commonly as the Pillars of Creation.
Our Milky Way galaxy contains several hundred billion stars of all ages, sizes and masses – and there are billions of galaxies in the Universe. One of the central quests of astronomy is to understand how these stars form, shine for millions or billions of years, and eventually die.
A star forms when a dense cloud of gas collapses until nuclear reactions begin deep in the interior of the cloud and provide enough energy to halt the collapse. But the fate of a star depends on its mass.
This kit explores three examples of stellar objects in our own cosmic backyard, the Milky Way galaxy, that we can feel in 3D through the mapping of direct observations in the sky. The set includes a region of star birth, a mature star system, and an exploded star that left behind a dense core.
Here's what you'll find inside:
• Five 3D prints:
-Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A
-Double Star System and Nova V745 SCO
-Pillars of Creation (also known as the Eagle Nebula).
• Audio files with descriptions for each of the 5 3D-printed objects included.
• A tactile and Braille poster series mounted on still styrene that cover science topics of eruptions, shadows, wind, erosion, outflows, seeding and spirals.
• Audio files of the text from the Braille panels.
M16, also called the Pillars of Creation, is a nearby star-forming region. The Pillars, which are sometimes called elephant trunks due to their shape, are an example of the column-like shapes that develop in giant clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplaces of new stars. This 3D model depicts details about the orientation of the Pillars in space, mostly that the Pillars actually consist of several distinct pieces on either side of a star cluster. In this model, note that the relative distance between the pillars is not to scale.
This 3D print is based on combined high-resolution spectroscopic data from the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) with data from the Hubble Space Telescope by McLeod et al., 2015.
The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a massive stellar explosion, or supernova, that was seen on Earth in 1054 AD. The nebula is about six light years across, or 60 trillion kilometers, and expanding outward at about 3 million miles per hour. At the center of the bright nebula is a rapidly spinning neutron star, or pulsar, that emits pulses of radiation 30 times a second. In this 3D print of the inner region of the nebula you'll notice a ringed disk, which is made up of energized material. Additionally, there is a pair of jets of particles firing off from opposite ends of the pulsar (the pulsar is hidden inside the ringed disk and cant be felt).
In the middle of the 19th century, the massive binary system Eta Carinae underwent an eruption that ejected at least 10 times the sun's mass and made it the second-brightest star in the sky. As a part of this event, which astronomers call the Great Eruption, the gaseous shell formed a twin-lobed dust-filled cloud known as the Homunculus Nebula, which is now about 10 trillion kilometers long and continues to expand at more than 2.1 million kilometers per hour. This 3D print of the Homunculus Nebula reveals protrusions, trenches, holes and irregularities in the gaseous material.
This 3D print is based on combined high-resolution spectroscopic data from the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) with data from the Hubble Space Telescope by Steffen et al., 2014.
All photos on the page, credit: NASA/CXC