Cool Cosmos at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center & the SIRTF Science Center
In answering the wide public interest in space sciences, NASA has, for more than a decade, made Education and Public Outreach (EPO) an important element in their missions. This “Cool Cosmos” portal is the main gateway of the “Cool Cosmos” EPO group at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center and the SIRTF Science Center. The “Cool Cosmos” EPO activities are coordinated and managed by the SIRTF Science Center, based at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Communicating the world of infrared astronomy to the public is the main topic of the “Cool Cosmos” portal but certainly not its only goal. In the past few years the “Cool Cosmos” team has created a wide variety of educational products that explain the infrared as well as the multi-wavelength universe. We've produced a suite of award-winning websites (coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu) that speak to audiences as varied as kindergarteners to amateur astronomers. We've also filmed short videos about astronomy and infrared light and created posters and brochures that have become favorites with NASA education specialists as well as classroom teachers.
The “Cool Cosmos” portal is involving students in science with multi-disciplinary educational materials produced with the goal of engaging the young minds of future generations of scientists. The continuous positive response of the public has been an absolute motivation to create new and innovative methods to reach them. The “Cool Cosmos” team is a dynamic group that has made its vocation to revive the interest, excite the dreams and hopefully answer some of the questions to satiate the public thirst for knowledge of Space.
Have you ever wandered what animals look like in the dark? The “Cool Cosmos” group has created an infrared zoo on the web. As you know, infrared light shows the heat radiated by bodies. By viewing animals with a thermal infrared camera, we can actually "see" the difference between warm and cold-blooded animals. Infrared also allows us to study how well feathers, fur and blubber insulate animals. So as they tour this "Infrared Zoo", visitors can learn about animals and acquire new information that they would not get only from visible light pictures.
The “Cool Cosmos” team has made its main occupation to communicate and explain the world of infrared astronomy to students and the public at large. But we also recognize that our efforts must be multi-faceted and cover multi-wavelength astronomy as well as the many different areas of science.In that spirit, we have created websites that explain Infrared Astronomy, its timeline, as well as the many benefits and uses of Infrared in the different aspects of our lives. We have created award-winning web activities where students perform a version of the experiment in which the famous astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel discovered infrared light. But we have also created web tutorials about multi-wavelength astronomy and created a multi-wavelength gallery that shows celestial objects observed in different wavelengths and also explains the benefits of each wavelength. One of our new websites additions is the Ritter experiment. This simple classroom activity leads the students to perform a version of the experiment in which Johann Wilhelm Ritter first discovered the ultraviolet light.
We have also made an effort in keeping science in general as platform for our educational products. The “Heat & Temperature” website is one example. In this site we introduce the concepts of heat and temperature, heat transfer and detection. We also present examples of what we can learn by detecting heat and measuring temperature.
Over the years, we’ve all been asked questions, not only about the SIRTF mission and infrared light, but also about astronomy in general. So we have created the “Ask an Astronomer” video collection. In this series of videos we answer a plethora of questions that have been posed over the years. The "Ask an Astronomer" videos present a fresh look on astronomy with an extensive use of multimedia platforms and state of the art graphics and animations.
Another great hit in our video and image collections is the Yellowstone series. We have made videos that show several visible and infrared views of the geothermal features found in Yellowstone National Park. Much of Yellowstone is on a giant volcanic crater and hot magma is still close to the surface. This is the source of heat for Yellowstone's hot springs and other geothermal features. In our video collection, viewers can see Old Faithful in a new and different light! Old Faithful is the most frequently erupting large geyser in Yellowstone. A geyser is a hot spring which erupts periodically. These eruptions are caused by the buildup of hot water and steam trapped by constrictions in the "plumbing system" of a hot spring. When enough pressure builds up the geyser erupts. Another great attraction that we thought interesting to see in both visible and infrared was the Mammoth Hot Springs. The terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs were created when hot water containing carbonic acid rose through ancient limestone deposits causing some of the limestone to dissolve. As the water reached the surface and flowed, the dissolved limestone that it carried solidified forming beautiful terraces. This is quite interesting to see in the infrared. One can actually discern the different terraces. The Bubbling Mud Pots are hot springs which do not have much water. The water in a mud pot is very acidic and it dissolves nearby rock into small pieces of clay. This clay then mixes with the hot water to create mud. Hot steam rising from below causes the mud to bubble and pop as the steam is released into the air. In the infrared we could actually see the temperature scale of the water in the Mud. Many other attractions of the park were also filmed, such as the Hot Springs, pools of hot water that have seeped to the Earth's surface to form small ponds; Geyser Runoffs; images of the forest and some of the animals that inhabit it. Enjoy visiting both the YellowStone Image Collection and the YellowStone Video Collection
From the start, we were wondering how to communicate and visualize the universe in a kind of light that is totally invisible to the human eye: the Infrared. The answer to this question has been the subject of “The Infrared Universe” poster and “Infrared: Seeing the world in a different light” brochure.
But the Universe sends us light at all wavelengths, with each portion of the spectrum bringing us unique information about the cosmos. In our newest addition, “The Multiwavelength Universe” poster, we address the subject of multi-wavelength astronomy and show dramatic images in many different wavelengths such as the visible, the infrared, the x-rays, ultraviolet and radio. You can download copies of all of our products from the Paper Products site where we keep a complete archive.