Galaxy in the night sky

Tactile Universe

Making astronomy research accessible to the vision impaired community

About the Tactile Universe project

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're creating 3D printed tactile images of galaxies which can be used in schools and at public events.

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The Tactile Universe is supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council through a Nucleus Award.

Current Status

The current focus of the project is on engagement with young people through school visits and workshops. We're 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 released our 3D printing files for the tactile galaxy images, plus supporting materials, which can be found on the models page of our website.

In the 2018/19 school year we ran 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.

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 6-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 14 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.

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 Tactile Universe community event in January 2017

Tactile Universe project lead Dr. Nicolas Bonne

Tactile Universe project lead Dr. Nicolas Bonne

Core team

Image of Dr Nicolas Bonne

Dr Nicolas Bonne

Image of Dr Jen Gupta

Media ready expert

Dr Jen Gupta

Image of Dr Coleman Krawczyk

Dr Coleman Krawczyk

  • Job Title Senior Research Associate
  • Email Address
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
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Mr Ted Turnbull

  • Job Title Senior Lecturer
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Creative Technologies
  • Faculty Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries


Special thanks

A special thanks goes out to the schools and groups that helped us test all our content:

  • Toynbee School
  • Kings Copse Primary School
  • The vision impaired support group at the Southsea Library

Explore more of our research

Our research areas of expertise

Our research areas and centres