Imagine yourself as a curious intergalactic traveler, viewing our galaxy and within it our solar system in the window of your spaceship. Beyond our galaxy, at the edges of your viewport, are innumerable other galaxies including a universe of different stars, systems, and matter. What do you want to learn about? Perhaps you want to understand where the solar system in your window and its sun and planets came from, what they're like, and if they'd be pleasant destinations? What's that big red spot on that large planet? Or perhaps you'd rather by-pass that solar system and investigate that other galaxy out there with that interesting pulsar. These types of questions which our hypothetical star traveler might pose illustrate the scope of the science content we plan to include in "Windows to the Universe".
The disciplines which we propose to develop content for include astrophysics and astronomy, solar and space physics, and planetary and lunar sciences. Data sets acquired using remote sensing and in-situ observation techniques from Earth-bound and orbiting telescopes, Earth and planetary satellites, and interplanetary spacecraft missions will be utilized. We will also access remote sensing data sets focusing on planetary aspects of the Earth, including data pertaining to geodynamics and atmospheric and oceanic composition and dynamics. Real-time satellite weather images, such as those available from GOES 8, will be appropriate for this purpose. Animations based on readily available simulations (developed with other funding) of interesting time-varying phenomena such as the development of solar magnetic field structures, magnetospheric circulation and dynamics, and atmospheric structure will be developed and incorporated. The RSDB application we propose to develop will provide a structure within which the user can access a wide range of Earth and Space science data resources in an intuitive fashion, which have been significantly enhanced by text, voice overlays, and animations presenting science results and relevant historical and cultural associations tailored to the general public. The hypertext capability of MOSAIC will be utilized to structure multiple imbedded learning windows that will allow the user to be drawn into the learning activity to the level suiting their interest. We will construct the system so that it is accessible and understandable to children as well as adults, with increasingly sophisticated science content as the user accesses deeper into the window stack. By designing the multi-level learning system to be highly image based at the upper-most levels, we will avoid "turning-off" the younger user and be able to attract an audience ranging from young children to adults.
The reduced scope of the project from that originally proposed will necessarily mean that fewer content areas can be developed in depth. In the first six months of the project, we will develop a detailed plan for content development that reflects fiscal limitations and balances the desires for a comprehensive and yet in-depth Earth and Space Science learning system for the general public.