IMAGE will produce spectacular images representing the plasma environment of the earth. These images will not only allow the IMAGE investigators to understand the physics of the magnetosphere, but will entice the public, students, and teachers into learning more about the fascinating and complex processes that surround the earth. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, and with the emerging technologies of the internet, World Wide Web, and CD-ROMs available to more and more people in the US, magnetospheric images are now within the grasp of many people.

The government and NASA, in particular, are becoming more aware that public outreach and education are critical activities of any publicly funded project. The recently released NASA Communication Strategy gives the Vision Statement to be: "NASA contributes to America's future by communicating unique scientific information. This endeavor increases the public's knowledge, understanding and application of science and technology which inspires and serves America and benefits the quality of life on Earth."

Several IMAGE investigators are now running projects to involve students and the public in NASA related science. Two examples are INSPIRE (http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/education/inspire/inspire_home.html) and "The Public Connection" (here shortened to "Connections", http://space.rice.edu/hmns/). IMAGE will directly benefit from the experience of both of these projects and the projects will be the basis for some of the most important IMAGE outreach activities. Figure 1 shows a museum kiosk with an IMAGE display.

[Visitor at Connections kiosk]
Figure 1. A young visitor to the Connections kiosk at the Houston Museum of Natural Science views IMAGE data.

6.1 Public Outreach

Connections is a cooperative project between NASA, Rice University and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. By means of interactive displays of real-time earth and space science data, Connections in one year has reached over 100,000 museum visitors and students and nearly 100,000 internet surfers, piquing their interest in earth and space science data. IMAGE will put meaningful and fascinating magnetospheric images into the hands of the public and students using software, hardware, and network experience from Connections. The Connections software will be installed in several more museums and planetariums in the coming two years. In addition, the museum display software has been adapted for school use, and will be installed in Houston middle schools in the coming two years. When IMAGE flies, its near-real-time data acquisition and processing will allow images of the magnetosphere and aurora to be available in minutes on the internet. IMAGE will send these images to a network of schools and museums who have the capability to capture them with Macs or PCs. The images will also be available from the NSSDC on the internet for browsing using the WWW, or for transfer from the online IMAGE archive using FTP. NSSDC will automatically update the WWW with the latest IMAGE data.

One of the first projects of Connections was to create a Planetarium show called "Connected". That show played to over 20,000 paying customers in early 1995, showed how scientists use the internet to exchange data and advertised how the Museum would be obtaining images and data in the future. We will create a new Planetarium show "IMAGEs of Earth", which will feature IMAGE data and show how scientists use that data to understand the weather in space. This new planetarium show will be distributed to the 48 Digistar planetariums around the country. With Digistar, the viewer can fly through a 3-D representation of the magnetosphere projected onto the planetarium dome. We will also create a non-Digistar version of the show, which will be made available to the other 20,000 planetariums around the country. We have already spoken to the largest distributor of non-Digistar planetariums, Spitz, and they are eager to distribute "IMAGEs of Earth". [DIGISTAR is a registered trademark of Evans and Sutherland Computer Corp.]

The IMAGE team has already begun to provide the public with information about IMAGE, with a Home Page available on the World Wide Web. The IMAGE page ( (http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/) describes the mission and its scientific objectives and instrumentation. It gives public outreach and education information and tells how to participate in IMAGE activities. Results of simulations that illustrate what kind of graphics and other data products will be available from the mission is also shown. One of the IMAGE instruments, RPI, already has a Web site (http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/rpi/).

6.2 Education, Teaching

Science teaching in K-14 schools is undergoing its second renaissance in our lifetimes. There are national and state-wide efforts to create standards and new, innovative curricula are being designed. Inquiry-based and event-based learning models are being used in these curricula. Assessment of learning has become more important, indicating to educators the drawbacks of the more traditional science teaching methods in the K-14 arena. IMAGE proposes the development of elementary and middle school earth and space science curricula and high school and college physics curricula, using IMAGE as a hook to stimulate the interest of students and as a way of demonstrating physical principles. The curricula would each be 10 to 12 weeks long and would be developed with the advice of a professional curriculum development organization.

To spark the interest of students and teachers in space physics, it is important to capture their imagination, convincing them that space physics is a worthwhile and relevant subject. Today's younger generations are brought up with technologies such as television, computers and video games. The IMAGE team will develop computer aided learning modules suitable for home or classroom use to dramatize physics principles in the space environment and let the students and teachers experience various geophysical phenomena.

Some of these will be games suitable for lower-level students, in which winning is guaranteed. We will create, for example, "Concentration"-type games in which an image is gradually uncovered, and "Wheel-of-Fortune"-type games in which names and phrases relating to the space environment will be revealed. Another module will be an electronic tutorial which will be developed to explain space weather and establish the relevance of space physics to daily life. A series of computer movies and interactive software will also be produced to illustrate the meanings of various types of space measurements (particle fluxes, electric and magnetic fields). Other modules include role-playing as a space physicist performing various research tasks to experience the process of space science investigations. State-of-the-art modules in virtual reality modeling language (VRML), analogous to the hypertext markup language (HTML), will be used for visualization of the magnetosphere. These modules will also be used in the planetarium show development.

The tools will be field-tested as part of Connections, with both schools and the general public exposed to the subject in an instructive, but fun, way. This approach not only teaches physics, but also introduces and explains the notion of space as an environment at the K-14 level. We have had preliminary discussions with a science software publisher, who has expressed interest in distributing such tools.

The International Space University (ISU), in Strasbourg, France desires to participate in IMAGE. Appendix X is a letter from the President of ISU, Dr. Roland Dore which states his desire to establish a partial archive in Europe for IMAGE data, use the IMAGE data at ISU by enhancing ISU curriculums and student design projects, and to generate and distribute IMAGE related educational material that ISU develops to the public and the academic community. For more information on ISU see http://www.isunet.edu/.

6.3 Reaching Youth

Video conferencing is becoming more and more popular, especially since it avoids the cost and personal disruption of travel. $100 cameras and networks can be combined with free CU-SeeMe software to make video conferencing available to virtually everyone with an internet connection. The IMAGE team plans to take advantage of these capabilities to reduce the cost and expand the impact of the IMAGE project. In addition, the IMAGE investigators will hold weekly CU-SeeMe video conferences between IMAGE investigators (on a rotating basis) and anyone who wishes to connect (with priority for students). Email questions will also be answered. The answers will be given during the video conference and sent via email. These conferences will begin well before launch, featuring descriptions of the science, the spacecraft and the engineering involved and continue through the data analysis phase. A video conference during the mission could begin with a short description of the state of the magnetosphere and aurora and could segue to a question and answer session about IMAGE data, space physics, and other science topics. Recently, Spartan scientists held a Cu-SeeMe video conference during the STS-69 Shuttle flight, and continue to answer questions via email (http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/spartan/ask_astronomers.html).

INSPIRE (Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionosphere Radio Experiment) was organized to support scientists who were investigating the propagation of VLF (Very Low Frequency) radio waves from the ionosphere to the surface of the earth. (http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/education/inspire/inspire_home.html). It is now a scientific/educational nonprofit corporation dedicated to giving students the opportunity to make VLF observations and stimulating them to becoming more interested in science and technology. Twelve hundred schools in the US have INSPIRE receivers and the number is growing. There are also participants in several foreign countries. The RPI will be used during perigee passes as a source of VLF radio waves, which, under some circumstances may be observable on the surface of the earth by students and other amateur scientists. These waves will propagate in the whistler mode nearly along the magnetic field, and when the conditions are right, may be observable on the ground with simple, but atmospheric noise limited receivers now available through the INSPIRE project. IMAGE will provide operation times so that INSPIRE participants can capture the data on cassette recorders for later analysis.

Return to IMAGE proposal page

Return to the IMAGE Home Page

Dr. D. R. Williams, dwilliam@nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov, (301) 286-1258
NSSDC, Mail Code 633, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Approval: J. L. Green, green@nssdca.gsfc.nasa.gov
Last Revised: 12 October 2000, DRW