sets, though, interactive exploratory data visualization can give far more insight than an approach where data processing
and statistical analysis are followed, rather than accompanied, by visualization. This paper attempts to charts a course
toward “linked view” systems, where multiple views of high-dimensional data sets update live as a researcher selects,
highlights, or otherwise manipulates, one of several open views. For example, imagine a researcher looking at a 3D volume
visualization of simulated or observed data, and simultaneously viewing statistical displays of the data set’s properties
(such as an x-y plot of temperature vs. velocity, or a histogram of vorticities). Then, imagine that when the researcher
selects an interesting group of points in any one of these displays, that the same points become a highlighted subset in
all other open displays. Selections can be graphical or algorithmic, and they can be combined, and saved. For tabular
(ASCII) data, this kind of analysis has long been possible, even though it has been under-used in Astronomy. The bigger
issue for Astronomy and several other “high-dimensional” fields is the need systems that allow full integration of images
and data cubes within a linked-view environment. The paper concludes its history and analysis of the present situation
with suggestions that look toward cooperatively-developed open-source modular software as a way to create an evolving,
flexible, high-dimensional, linked-view visualization environment useful in astrophysical research.
The ADS All-Sky Survey (ADSASS) is an ongoing effort aimed at turning the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), widely known for its unrivaled value as a literature resource for astronomers, into a data resource. The ADS is not a data repository per se, but it implicitly contains valuable holdings of astronomical data, in the form of images, tables and object references contained within articles. The objective of the ADSASS effort is to extract these data and make them discoverable and available through existing data viewers. The resulting ADSASS data layer promises to greatly enhance workflows and enable new research by tying astronomical literature and data assets into one resource.
The WorldWide Telescope computer program, released to researchers and the public as a free resource in 2008 by Microsoft Research, has changed the way the ever-growing Universe of online astronomical data is viewed and understood. The WWT program can be thought of as a scriptable, interactive, richly visual browser of the multi-wavelength Sky as we see it from Earth, and of the Universe as we would travel within it. In its web API format, WWT is being used as a service to display professional research data. In its desktop format, WWT works in concert (thanks to SAMP and other IVOA standards) with more traditional research applications such as ds9, Aladin and TOPCAT. The WWT Ambassadors Program (founded in 2009) recruits and trains astrophysically-literate volunteers (including retirees) who use WWT as a teaching tool in online, classroom, and informal educational settings. Early quantitative studies of WWTA indicate that student experiences with WWT enhance science learning dramatically. Thanks to the wealth of data it can access, and the growing number of services to which it connects, WWT is now a key linking technology in the Seamless Astronomy environment we seek to oer researchers, teachers, and students alike.
The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program (WWTA) is new outreach initiative run by researchers at Harvard University, WGBH, and Microsoft Research. WWT Ambassadors are astrophysically-literate volunteers who are trained to be experts in using WWT as teaching tool. Ambassadors and learners alike use WWT to create dynamic, interactive Tours of the Universe, which are shared in schools, public venues, and online. Ambassador-created Tours are being made freely available and will ultimately form a comprehensive learning resource for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
In this short talk, we will describe the results of a Pilot Study where volunteer Ambassadors helped sixth-graders use WWT during their six-week Astronomy unit. The results of the study compare learning outcomes for 80 students who participated in WWTA and 80 students who only used traditional learning materials. In the comparison, we find that, after the six-week unit: twice as many "WWT” as "non-WWT” students understand complex three dimensional orbital relationships; and tremendous gains are seen in student interest in science overall, astronomy in particular, and even in using "real” telescopes.
Plans for WWTA include expansion to five US sites within the coming year, and ultimately to an International Program. Online materials will ultimately be available through several sites (at WGBH, Harvard and Microsoft), and will be integrated with existing online curriculum programs such as WGBH's Teachers’ Domain and Microsoft's Partners in Learning. More inormation is presently available at www.cfa.harvard.edu/WWTAmbassadors/.