Blind Optical Astronomy... May 18, 2006 20:05:33 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on May 18, 2006 20:05:33 GMT -6
Blind Students Experience Universe via Yerkes Observatory's Project SEE
"Sighted people can go to the planetarium, look, listen and get a lot out of it. They can go out on a clear night with even a low-powered telescope and see so much. But none of this is true for someone with a vision impairment," said Olivia Smithmier-Bohn, a SEE participant and freshman at Memorial High School in Madison. "Why shouldn't it be true? Astronomy is so neat, why shouldn't visually impaired people have the same opportunities as sighted people to learn about phenomena in our universe?"
Most astronomy requires long exposures using cameras, and modern astronomy explores all wavelengths of light, most of which are invisible to human eyes. Students at Yerkes look through telescopes, use cameras, explore the technology involved in studying infrared light, and conduct research on celestial objects of interest.
"No matter what their degree of sight or blindness, the students all want to have the light of a star or a planet fall in their retina. Maybe they can only sense a little bit of light with absolutely no features, but it's very important. They all need to get their eye up to that eyepiece and have the light of Venus or Saturn or Vega fall on their retina," Hoette said.
And thanks to a special machine donated by the Williams Bay Lions Club, the students can convert their images into a tactile, three-dimensional form that they can explore manually. They also collect information about the objects by interviewing astronomers and planetarium professionals. Then they write a report about their objects that is written with large print or in Braille.
Full story here: www.ascribe.org/cgi-bin/behold.pl?ascribeid=20060518.134345&time=13%2059%20PDT&year=2006&public=1
An excellent project, and I would like to experience the braile observing too for myself...