Photo of Kate explaining the tactile telescope model to a high school student.

Accessible Astronomy: Tactile Telescope

Create a tactile telescope model that students with visual impairments can feel and explore!

Electromagnetic radiation (see our previous electronmagnetic radiation blog here) is concentrated, captured and focused by the telescope.  The telescope is our next stop on our accessible astronomy journey.  

I have never known an amateur astronomer who isn’t delighted to share their passion for telescopes with everyone.  They love to demonstrate their scopes and allow people to point them and look through the eyepiece but NEVER (that’s all caps, NEVER) allow people to explore the scope itself.  Touching lenses, mirrors, spotting scopes, and optical tubes can easily compromise expensive equipment. So how is anyone supposed to understand how a telescope works?  

Visual graphics are a great way to show the parts of a telescope but everyone who has had a chance to touch Kevin McCarrron’s tactile telescope has liked it better!  Students and little kids can touch and ask questions, amateurs can breathe easier and teachers can satisfy their kinesthetic learners. It’s just another example of how something that was designed with a disability in mind can have broad applications. 

We would love to tell you that you can call us up and purchase one of these scopes or just order up a kit, but we can’t. Do let us know if you would like us to work on that as an option but for now, to take on this project you will need a good parts list, a plan and a person who is comfortable with power tools. We are attaching a parts list for building the tactile telescope and for the rest, you can listen to Kevin McCarron explain his creation in the video.  (Download the Tactile Telescope Directions pdf here.)

In the video below, Kate and Kevin demonstrate and explain the various parts and functions of the tactile telescope model that Kevin created. Note: The model is similar to an actual telescope that has been cut open so that students can feel the various inside components and how they work.

We welcome your questions and your comments.  For our work, we have relied on Kevin to build our scopes.  Be the first person to send us a video of you making this scope on your own and we will send you a GLAS Education T-shirt.  That may sound minor but if we get the opportunity to return to Yerkes Observatory it will be a collector’s item.  

Accessible Astronomy Series

Attached File(s)
By Kate Under GLAS

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