Chandra  X-ray Observatory



The overarching goal of Chandra's multi-faceted Education and Public Outreach (EPO) program is to open access for anyone to be a learner and explorer of the Universe. In order to achieve this goal, the Chandra EPO team shares new discoveries about the Universe with diverse audiences, engages the imaginations of students, teachers, and the general public, and increases learning opportunities. We partner with organizations such as the National Science Olympiad, the 4-H, the NASA Museum Alliance and the American Library Association to leverage their distribution networks for national impact.

Working closely with the scientists and engineers responsible for Chandra and its science, the EPO team creates scientifically accurate, compelling, and engaging products and activities. We summarize below a sample of the wide-reaching, synthesized suite of programs – ranging from press to outreach to informal and formal education – that take advantage of the compelling topics that only the high-energy Universe can reveal.

For a detailed discussion and list of Chandra EPO accomplishments please see

Communications: Disseminating Chandra's scientific results

The success of the Chandra press effort – resulting in over 2,000 articles in 2012 alone – helps demonstrate the media's and public's appetite for discoveries of the high-energy Universe. The Chandra EPO group releases dozens of new images and news stories every year that reach millions of people. Press release packages are enhanced with state-of-the art visuals, and are supported by award-winning video podcasts, blogs, and more that make their way onto news and science-focused websites and into traditional broadcast outlets around the world.

For more details on communications and press activities please visit

Public Outreach: Targeted strategies and practices for effective communication of NASA”s science investment

  • Goals: Effective and diverse access to NASA SMD and Chandra content; effective science communication
  • Outcomes: Engaged new audiences, increased science literacy, increased interest in NASA and its missions; targeted audiences have access to NASA resources tailored to their needs

Digital Strategies: Open access portal with scaffolded content

The main hub for Chandra EPO activities is its comprehensive website ( This site serves not only as an up-to-date, quality repository for images and science results from Chandra, but also as host for the wealth of Chandra’s online and electronic resources. Our open source materials include scaffolded content targeting a range of audiences (from scientists and science writers to non-experts, casual readers and school-aged children). This platform allows us to extend engagement for our public audiences including the increasingly popular social media feeds, award-winning podcasts, blogs and multi-media interactives. The web site content and many of its components have been recognized for excellence by multiple science organizations and outside entities. For example, the Chandra blog has been cited among the “100 Excellent Blogs for Science Teachers” by the Accredited On-Line Colleges Organization.

We have collaborated with Hubble, Spitzer, and many other telescopes to create multi-wavelength images that have been used on the NASA portal and NASA-TV, NASA and other “picture of the day” sites, disseminated as exhibits to museums and planetariums, and used in informal and formal education products such as popular science books, text books, and electronic products. Availability of these high-quality images as well as original illustrations and animations has enabled Chandra science to be featured in broadcast productions and documentaries on such outlets as the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), the History Channel, the Smithsonian Channel and Discovery Channel, among others.

The Chandra EPO team considers it a priority to be aware of what topics interest our users and what platforms they choose to engage with science. User needs are identified and addressed in specific areas through detailed metrics on web use, user comments, on-line ratings and direct evaluations. Metrics for the highly visible multi-media and social media platforms have exhibited high growth patterns and are closely monitored to refine platforms and products.

For more details on digital strategies please visit

Public Science: Broadening access with new audiences

One area that sets the Chandra EPO apart is its pioneering work in what we categorized as "public science." This type of innovative science outreach places astronomical content into such non-traditional spaces such as public parks, airports, shopping malls, and more. Starting with "From Earth to the Universe" and continuing with "From Earth to the Solar System" to the latest project, "Here, There, and Everywhere," these public science efforts offer exciting science content in an accessible and engaging way to large, diverse, and often underserved audiences. With a mix of large semi-permanent exhibits, NASA-funded traveling exhibits and smaller, locally funded exhibits, these programs show high leverage and longevity independent of initial funding with over 140 US exhibits over the last 4 years. Through such public science projects, we have reached out to include Spanish-speaking audiences, visually-impaired audiences and tens of millions of participants from the greater public.

Science Olympiads: Infusing current research results into science competitions

In another effort with national impact, Chandra EPO supports the National Science Olympiad astronomy competitions for middle and high school students. We have infused NASA science results into the competition tests, provided training and study outlines for the coaches and linked the team members and their coaches with NASA resources. Over 100,000 students per year from all 50 states participate on National Science Olympiad teams.

For more details on outreach programs please visit

Education In & Out of the Classroom: Engaging students and educators with new discoveries and learning opportunities

  • Goals: Provide educators with the resources and knowledge to infuse NASA SMD content into their activities and classrooms. Develop materials and activities which increase student interest in NASA SMD science and STEM subjects.
  • Outcomes: Educators have increased ability to use NASA SMD content in formal and informal education. Increased participation and retention of students in STEM subjects.

Chandra offers astronomy enrichment and training in use of astronomy materials to educators at workshops through the National Science Teacher Association and other educator professional organizations. We also offer programs for those who are involved with informal education programs in museums, after school, and community organizations. We provide classroom-ready materials which have been peer reviewed through the NASA product review process in downloadable formats from our web site and also in printed form to enable use by educators with differing levels of access to technology. Both Chandra and NSTA evaluations indicate that the workshops are meeting their goal of providing educators with the resources and knowledge to successfully engage and instruct students in topics related to NASA science.

An intensive summer program sponsored by Chandra at Rutgers University – known as the Astrophysics Summer Institute -- introduces high school students and teachers to the practice of science through inquiry based exercises and data analysis using Chandra and other NASA archival data. The educational methodology and content have been leveraged to a “massive, open, on-line course” (MOOC) to be offered (fall 2013) by Rutgers through Coursera and will continue independently as a legacy.

Chandra's "STOP for Science" (STOP) project is out-of-classroom science enrichment for grades K-6. STOP combines eye-catching displays of science topics accompanied by level-selected questions and extensive teacher resources to provide broad exposure to familiar science themes. While the program is intended for implementation outside the formal classroom, it is carefully designed to promote integration of the topics within it and includes links to appropriate national standards for Science, Math, and English Language content.

For more details on educational programs please visit

Best Practices: Science communication research, evaluation and evidence-based approaches

The efforts of Chandra’s EPO program have produced 11 papers authored by team members on research, outcomes and best practices for peer-reviewed publications such as the Science Communication and Communicating Astronomy with the Public journals.
Full list of reports at

Lead Organizations:

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)



  1. NASA programs draw on the content produced by Chandra EPO for their heavily trafficked web sites and social media feeds including the main NASA website and “”, APOD and HEASARC image sites, and NASA’s Chandra mission site.
  2. National Science Olympiad fields 6800 local teams involving over 100,000 students. Chandra infuses NASA space science results into the astronomy competition study guide and tests.
  3. Smithsonian Institution: draws on content of Chandra public web site to populate special Smithsonian collections such as digital photography and to feature on the Smithsonian web site, leveraging outreach to their museum audience and museum affiliates.
  4. NASA Museum Alliance and American Library Association: use Chandra images in displays, museum/library science outreach and host touring Chandra exhibits and associated programming. Brings Chandra to audiences “underserved” because of geographic location and access to digital resources. All materials also offered in Spanish translation.
  5. NY Regional 4-H club network : distributes Chandra activities, exhibits, materials in out-of-school science programs for rural populations.
  6. Northrup-Grumman and Space Grant Consortium partner to offer summer internships at the Chandra Control Center mentored by NG Flight Team staff. Brings industry experience and mentors to college students interested in NASA careers.
  7. SpaceMath: partners with Chandra to design problems based on science results for classroom instruction. SpaceMath curriculum is distributed widely and published.

  8. Rutgers University is offering a MOOC physics course in fall 2013 enabling student research in archived Chandra observations. Early registration has topped 7000 students. Exposes new undergraduate audiences to data analysis and archives from NASA satellites.
  9. National Federation for the Blind: Chandra developed tactile/Braille posters for use in public exhibits, distribution to schools for the Blind, and NFB summer science camp programming. Leverages a severely underserved audience. All Chandra public exhibit programming contains tactile/Braille components and is also accessible on-line.
  10. United Nations Universe Awareness program (UNAWE) aimed at younger children co-produces age and grade appropriate articles derived from Chandra science releases. The distribution is world-wide, in 40 languages. Increases reach in US through distribution partnerships with Smithsonian Kids, National Geographic Kids, Eureka alerts.
  11. The Adler Planetarium (Chicago) and Agnes Scott College (GA) partnered with Chandra to produce “From Earth to the Universe” (FETTU) exhibits at Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield airports. They host parts of the former exhibits and continue public educational programming based on them.

  12. Radnor University (VA) incorporated FETTU content into a new building with a science outreach function.
  13. NASA Astrobiology Institute and National Center for Earth and Space Science Education partnered with Chandra to create a travelling public exhibit for the Year of the Solar System called “From Earth to the Solar System”. Modeled on FETTU and physically reusing the exhibit stands, it showed at 49 venues and infused Chandra content into cross-disciplinary settings (planetary science, astrobiology) outside of astrophysics audiences.
  14. National Air and Space Museum partnered to host the research exhibit Astronomy & Aesthetics which examined concepts of public image display for optimum understanding and interaction. Also, Chandra contributed display materials for NASM’s new public observatory which receives tens of thousands of on-site visitors per year.
  15. Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with Chandra to use our model of public science to pilot a program of incorporating STEM and science content into their visitor center programs. EPA is hosting content from two Chandra programs, Here, There and Everywhere (a public science exhibit) and STOP for Science (an informal education program) in an EPA visitor center to assess impact.
  16. NH Youth National Guard partnered with Chandra to offer a pilot family-oriented science festival and a professional development program for k-12 teachers serving the military to introduce them to NASA education resources. Further programs utilizing each others resources is planned.
  17. Chandra has partnered with ViewSpace to provide content for the installations in ViewSpace museum kiosks nationwide, reaching, according to ViewSpace metrics, some 8.7M viewers per year.



Formal Education

Informal Education


Public Outreach



Effectiveness and Impact:

Evaluation findings and impact statements:

Our FY13 evaluation is in process, topics listed above.
Summary of selected results from earlier evaluations:
The Chandra program has done summary surveys of specific product areas, longitudinal studies of usage and impact, and focused studies to determine needs, content, and perform formative and summative evaluation of specific products or activities.

Previous years evaluations have focused on the effectiveness of teacher PD workshops, on the impact on student education and career choices of the Astrophysics Summer Institute for high school students, on usage and effectiveness of the public web site, printed materials, and materials and activities intended for classroom use, on preferences for formats and platforms for particular kinds of materials, on preferred science topics, etc.

Our evaluation findings show that the Chandra EPO program has been successful in meeting its goals of widely disseminating information about the Chandra science results, in providing engaging materials for public and classroom use, in providing relevant and effective PD training to educators, in offering programs and materials that stimulate student interest in and engagement with space science.

Evaluation results from Goodman Research Group (GRG) about the usefulness of the Chandra web site as a public resource show that 78% of survey participants find current press releases and related articles to be “useful or very useful”, and 71% use the Photo Album page “every or nearly every visit”. More than three-quarters of participants reported downloading and printing a current image. Further GRG studies show 92% of survey respondents agree that the Chandra site is “a valuable resource”, “a good source of new ideas”, and “contains comprehensive information about astronomy”; 84% use it to find images by category, date, constellation or sky map location, and to read background material on X-ray astronomy and on the Chandra mission; 61% read feature articles on nearly every visit.

Chandra evaluations include both impact and outcome studies. Some examples:


1) In a longitudinal survey (6 years) about the Astrophysics Summer Institute (ASI) for high school students, participants were asked a series of questions about the impact of the program on their continued participation in STEM degrees and careers, and on their attitudes toward learning in general.

  • 65% said that the program made them “somewhat” or “much more” inclined to pursue more education in STEM.
  • 83% enrolled in or completing a degree program reported majoring or minoring in a STEM subject. Concentrations included astronomy, physics, information systems, computer engineering, bio-medical and biological sciences, microbiology, immunology and medical school.
  • 68% rated the program as one of their top 3 educational experiences.
  • An additional 7% rated it as their top educational experience.

2) Qualitative assessment of learning experience during the ASI was high, rated on a scale of 1-5 where 5 = learned a great deal (mean response) in the following areas:   

  • Astronomy 4.52
  • Methods of data analysis 4.34
  • Skills in interpreting scientific data 4.28
  • Telescopes and satellites 4.12
  • Experimental techniques in science 4.04

3) Professional Development Teacher workshops were surveyed for learning gains in various areas. For example, in the category of knowledge about space based observatories:

  • Prior to the workshop, 52 % of participants said that they knew “nothing or little” about this category. Surveyed after the workshop, only 21 % responded that they still knew “little”.
  • Prior to the workshop 48% responded that they knew “something to a lot” about this area. After the workshop, 81% reported knowing “something to a lot.”
  • The largest reduction was in the “very little” category, from 40% to 18%. The largest gain was in the “quite a bit” category, from 10% to 30%.


1) How effective are the Chandra program and products in fostering engagement with and awareness of space science research?

  • 67% of a survey sample of 475 formal and informal educators rated the Chandra materials as “more interesting” and 58% as “more current” than other materials they had access to.
  • Over 60% indicated that the large wall posters, lithographs, postcards and card sets are “extremely”or “quite” useful for engaging their audiences.
  • 68% of professional development workshop attendees reported that they were very or extremely likely to visit the Chandra website and recommend it to other education colleagues as a resource.
  • 73% reported that the workshop activities were very or extremely effective in engaging students.
  • 82% of respondents had or planned to request additional materials.

2) What is the efficacy of each kind of material?

  • 85% of respondents reported that the classroom activities presented in PD workshops were very or extremely effective in helping students learn the relevant scientific concepts.
  • Products that scored “excellent” in achieving learning goals, relevance of content, and information provided about astronomy were the stellar evolution poster, two other poster sets, the stellar cycles card set, image postcards, and image bookmarks. No Chandra product was rated as mediocre or inferior.
  • Large wall posters were rated the most useful by nearly 80% of all respondents. An over whelming consensus (72%) singled out the large wall poster about stellar evolution as the single most useful product for both formal and informal venues.

Comments from survey of participants in Astrophysics Summer Institute

  • Being exposed to real scientific research at such a young age is incredible to me. It stands among my most valuable educational experiences.

  • The summer institute was the first intensive exposure to “hands-on” scientific model building (and re-building) that I ever had. The experience definitely provided me with an advantage (at selecting hypotheses, designing experiments, and troubleshooting) when I started doing my own bench research in college.

  • I have always had a deep passion for science, so this program did not serve as a way for me to become interested in science. However, this program truly helped me understand models, the scientific method, etc. and thus helped me to become a better science student even if it was not focused on the field (Biotechnology) I intend to pursue.

  • It was much more challenging than any of my high school classes in the sciences. The teaching style focused more on the process of learning and understanding than the product of education, which I feel taught me more. I still remember the methods I used to solve certain problems.

  • The institute was an extremely useful program. It served to better prepare me for my college endeavors. It also served to inspire me to reach for a career in the sciences.

  • Reinvented my understanding of science. The program has given me the confidence to pursue a career in science.

  • Prior to the program, I had the intention of pursuing an MD. However, after having been exposed to research, I am strongly considering pursuing a PhD in addition to the MD to allow me to conduct medical research. 

Comments about Teacher Enrichment Workshops:

  • Tailoring the workshop with activities, handouts and materials that are immediately available/easy to use for lesson when the teacher returns to his/her school is a bonus.

  • Training and education for science teachers is essential in keeping us informed and up to date. Sessions that provide us with ready-to-use, meaningful classroom activities are critical in the success of a subject in our curriculum.

  • Unlike many other workshops I have attended on other subjects, I use the Chandra information daily. It was a workshop that keeps on giving back (especially to my students). The money and time were/are being used effectively and efficiently. I also work with students who have failed the Science portion of the Texas Exit Level tests for graduation. So many of the concepts I learned and was exposed to help me DAILY to explain science to these students (in another way) using Astronomy.

  • This program enhances computer literacy for folks like me. This was an invaluable program.

  • The most valuable part for me was the classroom-ready content and activities that were shared. We are starting an astronomy class this year, and I will be slated to teach it in part because of the information I got at the workshop.

  • The practical activities I can use with my students right away.



Awards and Recognition

  • Pirelli International Award for Physics for Chandra vodcasts for “the innovative use of new generation multimedia tools toward broadening science communication to the wider public." (2007)
  • Aegis Award for Black Hole podcast (2009)
  • Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach & Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 Conference Keynote speech, “From Earth to the Universe” (2010)
  • 16th Annual Communicator Award of Distinction, “The Extraordinary Universe” podcast (2010)
  • 14th Annual Webby Award Official Honoree, “The Extraordinary Universe” podcast (2010)
  • Pixie Award, Platinum, “From Earth to the Solar System” trailer (2011)
  • Pixie Award, Platinum, “Hidden Baby Black Hole” animation (2011)
  • NSF International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge Finalist, “Star Blasts Planet with X-rays” Illustration, (2011)
  • Pixie Award, Gold, “Here, There and Everywhere” trailer (2012)
  • Pixie Award, Gold, “Where the Wind Blows” podcast (2012)



Public Science: FETTSS & FETTU

Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Framing “From Earth to the Solar System” as Public Science” Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, issue 13, April 2013

Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., “Creating Public Science with the From Earth to the Universe Project” Science Communication. September 2011; 33 (3)

Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M., “Bringing the Universe to the Street: A Preliminary Look at Informal LearningImplications for a Large-Scale Non-traditional Science Outreach Project”. JCOM Journal of Science Communication. Vol 09, Issue 02, June 2010.

Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., De Pree, C., Exploring the Invisible Universe: A Tactile and Braille Exhibit of Astronomical Images. Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Issue 8, pp 15-17, June 2010.

Arcand, K.K, Watzke, M, “On the Journey From Earth to the Universe”. Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal. pp10-13, November 2009.

Image and Meaning: Aesthetics & Astronomy

Arcand, K. K.; Watzke, M.; Smith, L. F.; Smith, J. K. “The Aesthetics of Astronomy: Exploring the Public's Perception of Astronomy Images and the Science Within” Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XX (ADASSXX) Evans,, I.N, Accomazzi, A., Mink, D.J. & Rots, A.H. (eds). Vol 442, p179-187. 2011.

Arcand, K.K., Watzke, M., Smith, L, Smith, J.K "Surveying Aesthetics & Astronomy: A project exploring the public’s perception of astronomy images and the science within" Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Issue 10 December 2010.

Smith, L.S., Smith, J.K, Arcand K.K, Smith, R.K, Bookbinder, J., Keach, K. Aesthetics and Astronomy: Studying the public’s perception and understanding of imagery from space. Science Communication Journal. August 2010.

Arcand, K.K, Smith, L, Smith, J.K, Holterman Ten Hove, K. Watzke, M, Smith, R.K, Aesthetics and Astronomy, Astronomical Society of the Pacific conf. proceedings. 2009.

Smith, L, Smith, J.K, Arcand K.K, Smith, R.K, Holterman Ten Hove, K. Aesthetics and Astronomy: How Experts and Novices Perceive Astronomical Images. American Psychological Association conf. proceedings. 2009.

STOP For Science

Slane, P., Slane, R., Arcand, K.K., Lestition, K., Watzke, M. "STOP for Science! - A School-Wide Science Enrichment Program" Astronomical Society of the Pacific “Connecting People to Science” Vol. 457 2012.