About Us

A full video transcript is available.

The Tactile Universe

The Tactile Universe is an award-winning project at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation to engage the visually impaired (VI) community with our astrophysics research. We are creating 3D printed tactile images of galaxies which can be used in schools and at public events.

A photo from the Tactile Universe community event in January 2017 showing four people sitting around a table. The person in the front is explaining a tactile galaxy to the person on the left.
A photo from the Tactile Universe community event in January 2017.

Current Status

The current focus of the project is on engagement with young people through school visits and workshops. We are creating a set of versatile resources for use in the classroom with key stage 2 and 3 pupils (age 7 – 14), using our tactile images of galaxies as a focus.

With support from STFC through a Nucleus Award all our resources will be made available to the wider astronomy outreach and VI communities free of charge. In summer 2018 we will be releasing our 3D printing files for the tactile galaxy images, plus supporting materials, which will be found on the models page of this website. In the 2018/19 school year we will be running training sessions across the UK, so that teachers, educators, science communicators, outreach professionals and any other interested parties can learn how to use our resources. If you would like to get involved with the project, whether by participating in a future event, through financial support for the project, or anything else, please do get in touch with the team.

The Tactile Universe is currently based at the University of Portsmouth, with additional support from The Ogden Trust, RNIB Bookshare, the Royal Astronomical Society and the South East Physics Network (SEPnet).

Pilot Project

An initial six month pilot project was funded by the South East Physics Network until January 2017. For this pilot, we developed our 3D printed tactile images of galaxies, which were used in a public event for the VI community in Portsmouth on the 14th January 2017. At this event, attendees were able to explore the different shapes of galaxies using a set of the 3D printed galaxies. You can find out more about the pilot by reading our A&G article.