This is a model of the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). It is designed to help make astronomy accessible to students with vision impairments (VI) and is part of the Tactile Universe.
This model uses a single-band image of a galaxy as a height map with the height of the raised areas scaling with the amount of light emitted from the galaxy. In this model the SDSS g-band (blue light, ~475 nm) is used. The blue light from a galaxy shows the location of the hot and young starts within a galaxy.
For the Dreamer we found the best way to print the models was with them standing on their thin edge (see attached photo). This makes sure that the resulting models are smooth and easy to interpret for people with VI. To avoid using supports the "top edge" of the model has been removed as a separate piece that can be glued on after the print is finished (the
We have also included a version of the file with all the edges still attached to the model (
m51_g_all_edges_on.stl). This model can be used if you want to experiment with adding supports or printing it "flat side down" (only recommended if you have a printer with better than 0.1mm resolution in the Z direction).
1) Glue on external edge
After printing use super glue to attach the top edge on the model
2) Glue photo on the back
To help aid people with partial/full vision the black and white photo can be printed out and glued on the back of the model. The image is mirrored to ensure that the features of the 3D model and the image on the back are aligned when holding the model in you hands.
1) Image stretch
2) Use image as height map
Overview and Background
The Tactile Universe is an award-winning public engagement project at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth (UK). The project aims to make astrophysics research accessible to people with VI, with a particular focus on children aged 9 - 14. The Tactile Universe is different from other VI-accessible astronomy outreach projects in that 1) we are engaging the VI community with current research, rather than the more basic astronomy concepts like constellations, and 2) we are showing that astrophysics can be a possible route of study and future career, not just a hobby. The Project Lead is Dr Nic Bonne, who is a blind astrophysicist himself.
Lesson Plan and Activity
- Distance: 23 Mly (1.35 * 10^20 miles)
- Diameter: 60 kly (3.52 * 10^17 miles)
- Contains 100 thousand million stars
- Central bulge
- Two well defined spiral arms
- Dust lanes run through centre of arms
- Companion galaxy on end of one of spiral arms
- Companion is odd shape due to interaction, and should feel flat due to absence of star formation
Guided tactile tour of the model
M51 is a face-on spiral, and is also called the "Whirlpool galaxy". M51 has an interacting companion galaxy. If we start by finding the bulge of the larger galaxy in the pair (in the center of the model), then tracing around it, we should feel two distinct raised areas, both at opposite sides of the bulge. These are the two main spiral arms. Feel how much rougher they are than the bulge. One of these arms is much longer than the other, and if we trace it to its end, we should find the galaxy’s companion. The companion is actually exchanging gas and stars with the larger galaxy, which is why this arm feels so much longer than the other one. This companion is also very smooth, as its structure has been lost due to gravitational interactions and its stellar population is very old.
Super glue (for constructing the model after it is printed).
This model makes use of data taken from the NASA Sloan Atlas and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. These data were processed using software developed by the Tactile Universe team, freely available on GitHub https://github.com/TactileUniverse/3D-Printed-Galaxy-Software.
The Tactile Universe would like some basic statistics for how our models are being used. If you use our model in an educational setting we would appreciate if you could send the following feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- how many people interacted with the model and how many were VI (if any)
- any general feedback about printing or presenting the model