Simone Seagle

Simone Seagle

Independent Web and Educational Software Developer

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Color is the Key!

Color is the Key!

March 15, 2015 Simone Seagle

Image Courtesy Jim Greenhouse When I worked at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, we worked on a non-existent budget most of the time. If we wanted something, we generally had to make use of what was around. At one point, a lot of the exhibits in the Space Science Wing had to be moved out, so we needed to come up with something to fill the dead space.

Many years ago there was an interactive called Color is the Key that was a tool for teaching about how astronomers use different filters to look at deep-sky objects to learn about them. It was running on a likely Windows 3.1 machine that had since moved on to the happy server room in the sky. The exhibit table, the monitor, and the sliding RGB filters were all in good shape. The monitor was an old 1024x768 VGA guy, but it still worked. We also happened to have an old Raspberry Pi 1 laying around AND luckily, an HDMI to VGA converter cable. It was kind of tricky to force the Pi to put out a smaller image than it was used to, but it did work!

After selecting a few different deep-sky objects to inspect - a close-up of Jupiter's clouds, a planetary nebula, and a few others - I used Pygame to create a simple slideshow program. The buttons that you see in the picture are just mapped to the right and left mouse clicks, so it was simple to program.

Explanatory text for the different filters is written in the appropriate colored text, (ie, red is in red, blue in blue.) Visitors cycle through the images and slide the color filters back to see the changes. For as simple as it was, and the basically non-existent budget, this exhibit was a total win.