X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission — Newton



Synergistically combining resources from several other high-energy X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy missions, the XMM-Newton E/PO program from 2003-2010 was aligned with all three of NASA’s Education Outcomes. Outcome 1: We have contributed to the development of the STEM workforce by working with dozens of students at the community college and university levels in partnership with SSU’s new MESA Engineering program and similar programs at other local community colleges. We have also engaged dozens of high school and college students in authentic XMM-inspired research experiences through our Global Telescope Network. Outcome 2: We have attracted and worked to retain hundreds of underserved students in STEM disciplines through after-school programs in partnership with local schools, where we use NASA-approved products to enhance science and technology education. We have also trained thousands of K-12 teachers with our highly popular and NASA-approved formal educational products. Outcome 3: We have built strategic partnerships with informal education providers to promote STEM literacy and awareness of NASA’s mission, inspiring tens of thousands of the public and young people through multi-media presentations, websites and the Night Sky Network and bringing exciting XMM-Newton mission science to diverse audiences.

Beginning in 2010, due to significant reductions in the XMM-Newton E/PO program budget, we have chosen to strategically focus our efforts on highly-leveraged and demonstrably successful activities, including the wide-reaching Astrophysics Educator Ambassador program, and our popular website Epo’s Chronicles. We have also continued to make major contributions working collaboratively through the Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum (SEPOF) on identified high-need activities: the on-line educator professional development course “NASA’s Multiwavelength Universe” and the Astro 4 Girls program.

Lead Organizations

Sonoma State University




The XMM-Newton E/PO program is synergistic with SSU’s other programs: Swift and Fermi. Many products and program elements have been done in partnership with these programs and other external partners. 

  • EPO program for Fermi (supernova education unit)
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific, joint with EPO programs for Fermi, Swift, and Suzaku (for Night Sky Network/amateur astronomy “Supernova” observing toolkit)
  • EPO programs for Fermi, Swift, NuSTAR, WISE, Kepler, GRAIL, and NSF LIGO program (for Educator Ambassador Program)
  • EPO programs for Fermi, Swift, NuSTAR (for NASA’s Multiwavelength Universe program, coordinated by Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum)
  • XMM, Fermi, and the Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum (for Astro4Girls program)
  • Sonoma State University, and EPO programs for Fermi, Swift, and NuSTAR (for Epo’s Chronicles)
  • 38 participating partners in the Global Telescope Network, gtn.sonoma.edu website, and EPO programs for Fermi and Swift (for robotic telescope observations by high-school students)
  • Project Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy (Project CLEA) (for “Dying Stars and the Birth of the Elements” online astronomy lab)
  • EPO programs for Fermi and Swift, Roseland School District, Cali Calmecac English/Spanish immersion K-8 school, MESA (Roseland), Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma County (Cali) (for after-school programs)
  • AESP at Goddard Space Flight Center (for “Extreme Universe” planetarium show)
  • NASA Space Place (for “Black Hole Rescue” interactive computer activity)
  • Other NASA Astrophysics mission EPO programs (International Year of Astronomy 2009 activities, including lithographs of the Go Observe objects, special Epo’s Chronicles episodes, Visions of the Universe library lectures by EAs, and more)




Additional Metrics:


Materials distributed for XMM (2003-2013)

  • XMM rulers: 3500
  • XMM Supernova CDs (containing Education Unit): 950
  • XMM Magnetic Field Activity handout: 5000
  • K-12 teachers (indirect, through materials distributed all years): 3150
  • K-12 students (indirect, through teachers above): 94,500

Website Statistics:

  • xmm.sonoma.edu: Avg. unique IP addresses average about 600 per month in 2013
  • Total of 6180 unique IP addresses and 7655 visits in 2012.
  • Epo’s Chronicles: Avg. unique IP addresses average about 7000 per month in 2013
  • Total of 80,008 unique IP addresses and 168,322 visits in 2012


Effectiveness and Impact

Evaluation findings:

  • Black Hole Rescue Game: The game was reviewed by a focus group who liked the graphics, layout, and format of the game. Other specific strengths of the game include the content-rich introduction page, the availability of the game in Spanish, and the game’s relevance to fifth grade science standards. The general idea and content of the game are laudable. There were areas of improvement noted, and Space Place programmers addressed most of these concerns in subsequent improvements. The game continues to be a popular feature of the Space Place website.
  • Afterschool Program at Cali Calmecac: Analysis of interview and site visit data suggests that the two SSU-supported after-school science classes for students in grades 1-3 and grades 4-6 at Cali Calmecac Language Academy are well attended, engaging students, and appreciated by teachers and the school administration. The principal reported that the program introduces students to new science knowledge at a time when there are only limited opportunities for science instruction during the regular school day. The principal said that the older students particularly enjoyed the robotics activities offered in the second half of the school year.
  • Supernova Education Unit: In November 2007, expert and teacher reviewers found the original product to be a valuable supplement to their curricula. High school teachers said many parts of the product address standards for the classes they teach. They highly praised the poster and background information, but nearly all teachers also felt that some activities in the guide should be reworked to make them more usable in the classroom. In May 2008, the new version of the product underwent an abbreviated review of its pedagogical features by an expert evaluator who participated in the original review and a very experienced eighth grade science teacher. A new Activity 1 is more interesting and accessible to students. A new Activity 3 should engage students and is stronger, pedagogically, than the original activity. The instructional time estimates for each activity now seem more realistic; and rubrics provided for assessment of the activities now enable teachers and students to recognize what content knowledge students should learn.

Impact evidence:

  • Educator Ambassador Program: The successful EA training events held every other year have developed a cohort of master teachers that are extremely successful trainers of other teachers. We have evaluations of all five EA training events held since 2002; each year we have done a better job in training these outstanding educators. In turn, the results of their evaluations done by the teachers that they are training, have also improved steadily.
  • Astro 4 Girls 2013: The turnout of 158 attendees to this day-long event in Butler, MO was much greater than expected. As one Educator Ambassador wrote: “What I find most amazing was how the community came together to support this event. With the NASA name recognition and the idea that the community had been invited to participate in this program it was amazing what happened. Normally this area does little to support anything other than the high school football teams. Those who do not are silent for the most part, thinking they are a minority. Those silent people seemed to come out of the woodwork for this event to either help or bring their children to the event. The man that donated the printing of our posters and had also donated $200 to the library to help with consumables for the event came in late last week and gave the librarian 20 mp3 players to augment the door prizes for the kids. There was significant newspaper and radio station support. Even the police department helped out by donating a roll of yellow police tape so we could rope off areas in the building that contained tools and equipment. The school donated funds to help with consumables and gave us use of the building. Our concerns about having enough volunteers were for naught - we had lots of enthusiastic, quality volunteers. The librarian has indicated that there has never been community support for anything at the library like there was for this event.”


Awards and Recognition:

CSWP Physicist of the Month

Lynn Cominsky was named CSWP Physicist of the Month for September, 2012 by the American Physical Society.

Women Honoring Women

Cominsky received an award from the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, which presents awards “Women Honoring Women” as part of Women’s History Month (which was, in fact, started in Sonoma County). “The "Women Honoring Women" award is given to outstanding women of the community who have made great efforts for the enhancement and well-being of women and girls.” Cominsky was honored for her “continuing work for the education of women and girls in the field of Science.’ Read more about it: http://www.sonoma.edu/workplace/2013/03/19/cominsky.html

American Physical Society Fellow  (Education division)

In 2009, Cominsky was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society (Education division) “For her seminal work to promote student and teacher education using NASA missions as inspiration.”

AAAS Fellow

Lynn Cominsky was named a Fellow of the AAAS (announced on November 30, Astronomy division) for “her work in outreach for X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy (NuSTAR, Fermi, Swift and XMM) and for inspiring her undergraduate students at Sonoma State University.”