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NASA PUNCH Outreach Creates Learning Activities that Celebrate Diverse Views of Our Sun, Eclipsed or Not

An “eclipse” petroglyph in Chaco Canyon and the 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector are featured among the enduring learning activities developed by the NASA PUNCH Public Engagement Team for use with the 2024 eclipse and beyond.

Published onMar 19, 2024
NASA PUNCH Outreach Creates Learning Activities that Celebrate Diverse Views of Our Sun, Eclipsed or Not


The multi-institutional, multi-cultural, and multi-generational outreach team embedded in the NASA PUNCH mission has developed a well-vetted suite of novel Sun-related learning products and activities to prepare for the 2023 and 2024 solar eclipses and beyond. Our signature products include the 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector, the PUNCH Team Cards, and our thermoform tactile-art representations of the Sun’s corona developed in collaboration with blind learners. All activities align with our Ancient and Modern Sun-watching theme and thus are of enduring value for education and outreach beyond the eclipses. The PUNCH Outreach theme includes our own personal Sun-watching experiences (whether they are everyday sunsets, or more exotic events like eclipses) and invites us to commune across time, space, and culture with our Sun-watching ancestors and with our NASA Sun-watching missions. While observing the solar corona during the totality phases of the April 2024 solar eclipse the Sun is at a time of high solar activity and thus we have a special opportunity to commune with Chaco Sun-watchers who may have recorded their impression of a stormy corona during the 1097 eclipse in an unusual curlicued petroglyph. PUNCH Outreach is among the numerous groups contributing to the NASA Heliophysics Big Year. We are celebrating NASA and natural wonders, including the 2024 eclipse, Parker Solar Probe’s closest pass through the corona in December 2024, and the 2025 PUNCH launch. We intend that the arts-integrated, multicultural, multisensory character of our PUNCH Outreach activities help prepare you for meaningful witnessing of these events and for ongoing attention to the extraordinary, ordinary star upon which all our lives depend.

1. Introduction

The outreach team embedded in the NASA PUNCH mission1 has developed a well-vetted suite of Sun- related learning activities2 to prepare for the 2023 and 2024 solar eclipses and beyond. All activities align with our Ancient and Modern Sun-watching theme (Figure 1) and thus are of enduring value for education and outreach beyond the eclipses.

On the left is a 4-bubble diagram. On the right is descriptive text. The PUNCH Outreach logo (half ancient petroglyph, half modern corona) rays out to three bubbles that make up the three elements of the PUNCH Outreach theme of Ancient and Modern Sun-watching: 1. NASA Heliophysics Missions, 2. Ancient Sun-watching in Chaco Canyon, 3. Personal Sun-Watching.
Figure 1

The three elements of the Ancient & Modern Sun-Watching theme for the NASA PUNCH Outreach program.

Our outreach theme portrays NASA’s exploration of the Sun as a natural extension of age-old human dedication to observing and learning about the Sun’s rhythms and mysteries. Our activities invite learners to engage in meaningful personal Sun-watching related to both NASA and ancient ways of observing the Sun. Table 1 offers a sample of products developed to date, with additions on the way, including a Girl Scout patch, a full-dome planetarium film with live-interaction components, plus a kiosk model and digital interactive lessons related to a Chaco Canyon Sun-watching site called Rock of the Sun. We are also preparing and testing activities designed to discover the wonders of polarized light in our everyday environments using sunglasses that are polarized, like PUNCH!

Table 1

Product Name


3-Hole-PUNCH Pinhole Projector

Imaging the shape of the light source both indoors and outdoors. For indirect solar viewing and for the study of image formation. Available in both Spanish and English.

PUNCH Team Cards

Exploring the broader humanity of diverse NASA PUNCH team members in a light-hearted way [on-line & printable formats]. Collaboration with Girl Scouts.

Seeing the Corona with Your Hands

Using your hands to “see” tactile-art graphics of the solar corona from an ancient petroglyph to NASA coronagraph images. Collaboration with Blind learners.

Birthday Sunrises on a Chaco Canyon Horizon

Learning to use a “horizon calendar” to predict the position of sunrise on your birthday on an eastern horizon viewed from a Great Kiva in Chaco Canyon. Collaboration with Native American learners.

Dancing Up a Solar Storm

Using NASA visuals to inspire interpretive dance and learning about solar storms and the Sun’s 11- year sunspot cycle. Collaboration with Girl Scouts.

PUNCH (Polarimeter to UNify the Corona and Heliosphere)3 is a NASA Small Explorer scheduled for launch in 2025. This is during a period of maximum solar activity. PUNCH (Figure 3) is designed to study the Sun and the space between Sun and Earth as one unified system. The mission explores the Sun’s outer atmosphere (called the solar corona) and how it expands to become the solar wind that fills the space between the Sun and Earth (called the inner heliosphere). PUNCH uses polarimeters (polarizing filters, like polarized sunglasses) in front of ordinary digital cameras to study the science of solar storms and other space weather features in the solar wind.

Three-panel image describing the NASA PUNCH mission. Left image is an artist concept of 4 PUNCH spacecraft on the limb of Earth with a stormy Sun in the background. Middle image is an artist concept of a blob of material leaving the Sun as a solar storm and heading toward the protective magnetic field of Earth.  Right image shows the positions of the four PUNCH spacecraft around Earth and how they look out into the space between Sun and Earth.
Figure 2

The PUNCH mission’s four cameras (each one on an Earth-orbiting satellite) combine to image and track solar storms and other space weather features with unprecedented quality and continuity.

Solar storms like Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) that disrupt the solar wind are more frequent during times of maximum activity in the Sun’s 11-year cycle. CMEs can imperil spacecraft and astronauts as well as enhance the beauty of Earth’s aurora. Just as our Sun-watching ancestors learned to predict and live well with the seasonal cycles, PUNCH and Parker Solar Probe4 are among the NASA Sun-watching missions helping our technological society live well with the solar magnetic activity cycle.

Parker observes from within the Sun’s outer corona, while PUNCH is designed to observe from Earth orbit and see the big-picture view of the inner heliosphere. The ground-based telescopes of the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) project provide yet another perspective. CATE5 is deploying 35+ teams of citizen scientists along the totality path for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse that crosses the United States from Texas to Maine. This provides 60 continuous minutes of polarized observation of the lower solar corona that can be used for detecting changes in its structure, perhaps caused by the presence of a CME. PUNCH Outreach is collaborating with both Parker and CATE to engage the public.

The “ancient” dimension of the PUNCH Outreach theme focuses on the compelling evidence for ancient Sun-watching in Chaco Canyon—a World Heritage site in northwestern New Mexico. A Chaco cultural site called Rock of the Sun includes a unique, hand-sized petroglyph (rock carving) on the southeastern facet (Figure 3) that the public can view. Our work at the site has enhanced the plausibility of interpreting this figure as an Ancestral Puebloan impression of the 1097 total solar eclipse with a CME in progress (Morrow et al., 2023; Schwing, 2017). Independent research has revealed that 1097 was a time of high solar magnetic activity on the Sun (Vaquero & Malville, 2014) and a time of high human activity in the Canyon. Although certainty is impossible, this rock art may be humanity’s earliest representation of a stormy solar corona in an enduring medium. The 2024 total solar eclipse also occurs during a period of solar maximum activity, offering a rich opportunity for communion with the Chaco observers.

A set of small house-sized reddish, sandstone boulders near a canyon wall in Chaco Canyon with inset images for the location of the special features of the rock complex called Rock of the Sun.  There is a curlicue petroglyph on the southeastern facet, a spiral petroglyph on the northeastern facet from which special sunrises near the summer solstice can be observed on a horizon with a triangle-shaped rock. On the southwestern facet there is an alcove from which special sunsets near the winter solstice can be observed relative to a mesa step on the horizon. A red arrow near the top of the image points to the location up the canyon wall where there were a pair of nestling ravens (also depicted in an inset) who oversaw the first photographic expedition made by PUNCH Outreach.
Figure 3

The Rock of the Sun in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico is home to an unusual petroglyph and rich evidence for ancient Sun-watching by Ancestral Puebloan people who resided there a thousand years ago. Modern descendants still dwell in the Southwestern US, including Acoma, Hopi, Zuni, and many other Pueblos. Our Puebloan collaborators help to ensure that our photo documentation of this site is made with respect and gratitude and that we use these photographic gifts for the benefit of all.

The multi-institutional PUNCH Outreach team (Figure 4) has made a comprehensive, culturally respectful photo-documentation of the Rock of the Sun site in support of our 2025 planetarium film and the creation of several other outreach products. PUNCH Outreach is a collaboration among mission team members, a core collaborative of planetariums and science centers in the Four Corners states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona), Native American and Spanish-speaking youth and families, Blind and Low-Vision learners, and Girl Scouts. Institutional members of our collaborative include the Southwest Research Institute (home of the PUNCH mission) and Fiske Planetarium (both in Boulder, CO), Clark Planetarium (Salt Lake City, UT), the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque, NM), and the Planetary Science Institute (Tucson, AZ). Together we create arts-integrated, multicultural, multi-sensory activities that are enriching for all people, and exceptionally adaptable for all ages.

A map of the Four Corners region showing the locations of key PUNCH Outreach partner organizations in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.  There are four green boxes that comprise the core PUNCH Outreach Collaborative of planetariums and science centers, and two blue boxes indicating key dissemination partners.
Figure 4

The PUNCH Outreach Core Collaborative (POCC) exemplifies the power of a “Stone Soup” collaboration that draws on the strengths of each institution to create products and events that benefit all partners and beyond. Our work radiates beyond the Four Corners region via valued dissemination partners with enhanced regional and national networks. Key dissemination partners include the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, Lowell Observatory, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), and the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

In the sections below we offer descriptions of the core products listed in Table 1 with an emphasis on our game-changing 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector, our PUNCH Team Cards, and our thermoform tactile-art representations of the solar corona through history from the Chaco petroglyph to a NASA coronagraph. We vigorously field-test all our products and are disseminating them broadly during the Heliophysics Big Year6 for use during the eclipses and beyond. Our projector’s 3-hole design, vetted instructions for use, field-tested guidance for facilitation via short videos, and explanatory PowerPoint slides make the Projector a powerful learning tool for optics and image formation as well as a safe and playful means of indirectly observing the Sun, eclipsed or not. The March 2024 issue of The Physics Teacher (Morrow, 2024) featured a 2-page column on the Projector and the Chaco petroglyph. We encourage you to explore this article and to enjoy our PUNCH Outreach Products page7 for more information and useful resources.

2. The 3-Hole-PUNCH Pinhole Projector

The design of the 3-Hole-PUNCH Pinhole Projector (Figure 5) is partly inspired by the work of the late Exploratorium artist Robert Miller.8 In this context “pinhole” means a lens-less hole of any shape that is large enough for sunlight streaming through to be seen on a projection surface in broad daylight, yet small enough to form an (albeit fuzzy) image of the Sun at arm-length distances. The PUNCH Outreach designers used a combination of math and experimentation to determine an effective size and spacing for the Projector’s three holes. The Projector itself is six inches tall.

The Projector’s design and development team included the author, R. Bigelow, B. Ingermann, Spanish translators M. Bevington and M. Rosario-Franco, plus dozens of others within and beyond the mission team who served as providers of photographs, reviewers, and field testers. Other team members who played vital roles in creating supporting materials for the Projector include M. Zawaski and S. Wolf.

There are two side-by-side ovals.  On the left is the colorful 3-Hole-PUNCH Pinhole Projector which is the PUNCH mission logo with three small holes - triangle, round, and square-shaped - cut out of the middle.  On the right is an oval-shaped picture of a young woman who is holding the pinhole projector so that three larger images of the annular eclipse are formed on the sandy ground
Figure 5

A mother-daughter team used our 3-Hole-PUNCH Pinhole Projector (left) to document the “ring of light” during the October 2023 annular eclipse (right). They observed from the plaza of a 1000-year-old Ancestral Puebloan building in Chaco Canyon, NM. The PUNCH Outreach theme emphasizes Chaco Sun-watching, both ancient and contemporary.

Photo:  Sanlyn & Annyse Buxner

We strongly urge you to view the three 6-minute “how-to” videos9 on YouTube which encapsulate the results of our team’s extensive field testing and show you how to lead inquiry that maximizes wonder and curiosity. The Projector is a great learning companion to solar protection glasses, whether or not the Sun is eclipsed. See Figure 6 for a summary of the “aha” moments that delight learners of all ages.

During engagements, the facilitator starts by holding their hand behind the Projector holes and positioning the Projector in front of a projection surface. The facilitator asks learners to predict what they will see when their hand is removed and sunlight streams through the holes onto the projection surface. Learners of all ages and educational backgrounds predict they will see light shapes that match the shape of the holes. The facilitator then ensures that the Projector is close enough to the surface so that their prediction is validated when they remove their hand (1 in Figure 6). The facilitator then guides learners to watch the projection surface as the Projector is pulled farther away toward the light source (the Sun).

The first “aha” is when all the shapes of light turn to round (2 in Figure 6). The second “aha” is when round shapes of light become even larger than the Projector holes as the Projector is moved even farther away (3 Figure 6). The facilitator then claims that the holes of the Projector are each forming images that are the shape of the light source, and asks: “What is the shape of the light source?” The facilitator then invites everyone to observe the Sun directly through solar protection glasses to experience the Sun’s stark roundness and thereby help to affirm the idea of non-round holes forming images of the round Sun. If available, an excellent follow-up to this experience is our indoor demonstration of this effect.

A composite of five pictures.  The first three run left to right and are labeled 1, 2, and 3. There are right-pointing black arrows between each of these pictures and from picture 3 to the last two pictures which are stacked vertically.  The leftmost picture (labeled 1) shows the shadow of the pinhole projector with triangle, square, and round shapes of light on a projection surface.  The next picture from the left (labeled 2) shows the same as before but all the light shapes have turned to round.  The third picture from the left (labeled 3) shows the same as before but all the round light shapes have become larger.  The two stacked pictures show a woman wearing solar protection glasses at the top.  Beneath her is an image of the round sun she is seeing through the glasses.
Figure 6

The three “aha” transitions for skillful facilitation of our 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector. Figure and photos by M. Zawaski and S. Wolf.

The PUNCH Outreach indoor tabletop demonstration of pinhole imaging (Figure 7) is not just for “rainy days.” The demo reinforces the idea that all three Projector holes form images that are the inverted shape of the light source. To control that shape, we cover the flat, lit surface of an inexpensive LED desk lamp with masks cut out of paper plates. All ages light up with wonder and curiosity when triangle, round, and square holes project three stars, crescents, or inverted F-shapes onto the projection surface.

Two side-by-side pictures.  The left picture shows a small desk lamp with the light off and a forefinger holding a circular cut-out mask over the round light opening of the lamp. The cut-out in the mask is shaped like a block F.  The right picture shows the same small desk lamp with the light on and the F-shaped mask in place.  A person behind a table is holding a 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector between the lamp's light and a white projection surface on a clipboard.  On the projection surface we see three inverted F-shapes of light.
Figure 7

The PUNCH Outreach indoor demo of pinhole imaging makes a powerful learning companion to the outdoor use of the 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector. Note the inverted “F” images on the projection surface in response to the F-shaped mask over the light source. Photos and set-up: C. Morrow, J. Aragon, and G. Skelton at the Sun Fun Day, Pueblo of Acoma, 20 May 2023

We strongly encourage learners to make the connection between the holes of the 3-Hole-PUNCH pinhole projector and the small rectangular gaps at the edges of window blinds or the odd-shaped gaps between the leaves of a tree. These gaps also form images that are the shape of the round Sun. Field-testing has revealed that many of us are not adept at detecting pinhole images of the non-eclipsed Sun without explicit coaching. Teaching people how to perceive natural pinhole images of the Sun hiding in plain sight in our everyday environments can open them to a lifetime of enjoyable observation wherever sunlight streams through small holes (Figure 8).

We intend that our supporting resources help empower you to bring pinhole imaging to the forefront of instruction about optics and image formation. Our downloadable PDF and PowerPoint presentations10 clarify how pinhole imaging works and offer images like those in Figure 8 and Figure 9 plus classic ray diagrams that explain and compare “pinhole” imaging to that of a lens.

Two side-by-side pictures.  The left picture shows an upward view through some Aspen tree leaves toward the Sun. The right picture shows many round shapes of light (images of the Sun) formed among the shadows of the tree branches cast on the side of a building.
Figure 8

The round shapes of light on the side of the building (right) are images of the Sun created by the sunlight passing through the odd- shaped gaps between the leaves of the Aspen tree (left). If the Sun were eclipsed, all the pinhole images would reveal it. Photos: C. Morrow.

Three side-by-side pictures. Two are larger at the right and left with a smaller third picture perched between them at the top. A text box is to either side of the third picture at the center top - one above each of the larger pictures at right and left. The left picture is of indoor blinds over the window of a hotel room. There is a red arrow from the center top picture which provides a blow-up of the small, rectangular shapes at the edges of these blinds.  The right picture show three vertical lines of round light shapes on the hotel room wall. These are images of the Sun formed by sunlight passing through all the little rectangular gaps at the edges of the blinds.
Figure 9

The round shapes of light (right) are images of the rising Sun created by the sunlight passing through the narrow gaps at the edges of the window blinds. Photos: C. Morrow.

The field of archaeo-optics (Watson, n.d.)suggests that pre-historic humans may have made use of pinhole imaging and the associated camera obscura effect to support time tracking, rock paintings, and ceremony. Today we know that pinhole optical principles are the foundation of how our telescopes, eyes, and the PUNCH cameras work!

3. The PUNCH Team Cards

PUNCH is the most “eclipse-relevant” mission currently in development at NASA (of course there are operational missions, like Parker Solar Probe and others that are also relevant). Like most space science missions, PUNCH involves hundreds of people all over the world who work hard to make it successful. Our current deck of 18 PUNCH Team Cards features only a small sample of these professionals (Figure 10). Nonetheless, these cards reveal and stimulate discussion about the diversity of people, the wide variety of roles, and the teamwork needed to make a NASA space science mission happen. The Cards help convey the message that NASA science is for everyone! The rest of this section provides insights about what we have learned through field testing of the Cards. We intend this to benefit other missions or Centers interested in developing their own Cards.

Three rows of six images of diverse people doing a variety of interesting things including leaping in the air at the beach, dancing, riding a bike, hiking in the mountains, playing softball, looking through solar protection glasses, riding a horse, enjoying a rainbow.
Figure 10

The front sides of the initial deck of 18 PUNCH Team Cards. We designed the cards to broaden the humanity of professionals working on a leading-edge NASA mission and to express both visually and verbally that “NASA science is for everyone.”  The Cards are available online with an interactive, 3-D effect for flipping between front and back, and also as printable PDF downloads.                     

Graphic art and 3-D effect for flipping online cards by D. Kolinski

The initial motivation for developing the Team Cards came from our Girl Scout collaborator who asked that we have Women-in-STEM cards for our Ancient and Modern Sun-watching Patch. This request combined with the intention expressed in our NASA proposal “to broaden the humanity of professionals working on a NASA mission,” and thus we expanded on our partner’s idea to create a more inclusive set of Team Cards. At first, we called them “Trading Cards,” but easily abandoned this term when an African American colleague expressed dismay about being “traded.” The PUNCH Team Cards are not bought and traded but offered freely as a public benefit to all who find them of interest.

There is a standing invitation for anyone on (or formally affiliated with) the mission team to be included in the PUNCH Team Cards, however, there is no obligation whatsoever to participate. We fully honor those who decline to become public role models and we have learned to distinguish between firm rejection and initial hesitancy that might later yield to our respectful, patient pursuit of a more inclusive deck of cards of greater benefit to youth. Each person currently featured found time and courage to complete an extended questionnaire that invited them to share more deeply about how they show up for their PUNCH-related job and why it matters. Our questionnaire also calls upon participants to share something of their sense of adventure, playfulness, or personal artistry, and to provide photos of themselves in response to the invitation: “Please send a photo of yourself doing something that enlivens you.”

Our development team edits and processes photos and questionnaire responses for the cards collaboratively for final approval by the person being featured. This usually involves three to four iterations for each card to ensure that team members shine brightly with a combination of their leading-edge professionalism and their uniqueness as human beings. Our development process stimulates team-building dialogue among mission team members and takes full advantage of our outreach effort being embedded within the PUNCH mission. We worked on the responses of several team members before deciding on the common set of sections shown in Figure 11 below for the backs of the Team Cards.

Two side-by-side rectangular card-backs with a small thumbnail picture and text about the person in 5 different Sections, including 1: short description of their PUNCH role, 2: Four or five adjectives to describe themselves, 3: Fun Sun Fact, 4: Words that Help Guide Me, and 5: Inspiring Animal.  On the left is Sarah Gibson, the PUNCH Project Scientist. On the right is Cherilynn Morrow, the PUNCH Outreach Director and the paper's author.
Figure 11

The back of every PUNCH Team Card includes the sections shown, thereby providing a variety of ways to explore and interact with the cards depending on the age and interests of learners.

Field testing to date reveals that younger learners are most attracted to the Inspiring Animal section, the lively pictures on the front, and the card borders with the four bright colors and color-blind accessible designs. Older learners spend more time exploring the sections that address Mission Roles, Fun Sun Facts, and Words that Help Guide Me. There are opportunities for new knowledge about the Sun and the mission, and invitations for insight regarding “science as a human endeavor” and what it means to be a team. Learners can discover and discuss real-life examples of how social and emotional intelligence play in pursuit of leading-edge science and technology (STEM). The “Words that Guide Me” section includes quotes from religious scripture, poets, philosophers, teachers, mentors, and parents, as well as self-developed wisdom based on life experience.

Field testers have also observed simple yet transformative “aha” moments as learners explore the cards…for example that a woman can be both a solar scientist and a dancer, or that a person can be both deeply religious and devoted to the success of a NASA science mission. The diverse cultural backgrounds represented by the cards allow us to convey a message of inclusivity and support for the modern adage, “If you can see it, you can be it.”

During field testing, learners expressed interest in having hands-on physical cards to complement the online cards, and in having the opportunity to create their own cards. These products have proven preferable for in-person engagement with individuals and as a family activity (Figure 12).

A montage of 3 pictures. Two are stacked vertically at the left, and there is one big picture at the right next to the two stacked images. Upper left picture is of a little Puebloan girl proudly holding her completed Create-Your-Own-Card template.  The large image at right is a blow up of her card drawings and written responses with a red circle around her response to the section "Animal that inspires me, and why".  The encircled text that the little girl wrote is: "Peacock because I'm smart, colorful, and strong."  At left, beneath the picture of the little girl is also a picture of her with her mother and father, proudly displaying the PUNCH Outreach buttons they all earned during the Sun Fun Community Day. The gymnasium wall behind them has a horizontal band painted on it with a complex mixture of triangle shapes.
Figure 12

Christine is a 7-year-old who came to our 2023 Sun Fun Day at the Pueblo of Acoma. She saw her relative among the Team Cards and was inspired to create her own. She used our Create-Your-Own-Card template for ages 9 and up (even though a template for younger learners was available). She consulted with her parents about her responses and soon her mother, father, and grandmother had all completed their own PUNCH Team Cards. This is how our outreach team first discovered the value of the cards for family learning.

Photos and montage by C. Morrow, Create-Your-Own-Card template by:  N. Byers,  B. Ingermann, D. Kolinski

The PUNCH Team Cards demonstrate an uncommon approach to providing inspiring, relatable role models. Card content helps to broaden the humanity of PUNCH professionals in a light-hearted way. The Create-Your-Own-Card activity stimulates meaningful peer-to-peer social interaction and inter-generational conversation about NASA, the Sun, and personal values.

4. Seeing the Sun’s Corona with Your Hands

Another signature product co-created by the multi-generational, interdisciplinary members of the PUNCH Outreach team is a set of eight thermoform tactile-art representations of the solar corona. Nicole Johnson led the development of this method of creating tactiles as part of her doctoral dissertation (Johnson, 2023). Figure 13 offers photos of three of these tactiles and the images they represent.

The author, a solar physicist by training and Chaco archaeoastronomer by personal inclination, led the selection of the images used in the 8-tactile set to tell a story over time of ways humans have recorded their observations of the solar corona from the ancient Chaco petroglyph to contemporary NASA coronagraph images. The tactile set allows both blind and sighted learners to participate in a guided inquiry about the strengths and weaknesses of interpreting the Chaco petroglyph as an Ancestral Puebloan impression of the 1097 Total Solar Eclipse with a solar storm in the corona. The inquiry is based on what we know today about how the corona can appear when storms like Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are in progress.

A picture at left combined with a montage of six small pictures at the right.  The left picture shows the torso and hands of a blind learner seated at a table. Their hands are exploring two different versions of thermoform tactile-art images of the Chaco curlicue petroglyph. The student's thin, long cane is perched between their arms and leaning toward the trunk of their body.  The right montage of pictures shows three images of the Sun's corona in the top row, and three corresponding thermoform tactile-art interpretations in the bottom row.  All images have dramatic rays, streamers, and curves emanating from a central round disk.
Figure 13

A student from the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) collaborates on the development of our tactile-art representations of the Sun’s corona (photo by N. Johnson). Right: Three of the eight tactiles in our set (bottom row) and the images that inspired them (top row). Photo montage by C. Morrow. Individual Credits for the top row: Left = NASA SOHO mission,  Middle = G. Tempel,  Right = D. Johnson. In early 2024, our tactiles production team managed by J. Keller and N. Johnson (and advised by the author, T. Alshuli, G. Tsinajinie, V. White, and T. Summers, plus CCB instructors) delivered 500 tactile sets to the Astronomy Society of the Pacific for national distribution. Contact [email protected] for more information.

We developed these tactile-art representations with (and for) the blind yet they also offer cross-sensory experience for the sighted via an activity called, “Seeing with Your Hands” (Figure 14 and Figure 15).

A man wearing a PUNCH ball cap, a PUNCH mask over his mouth and nose, and a name badge around his neck is seated before a table with a box on it with a blue drape over it. His hands are inside the box and he is looking at a sheet of paper that is on the top of the box. There is an inset picture in the upper right that corresponds to the thermoform tactile-art image that the man is feeling inside the box. The inset picture shows the tactile image of the Chaco petroglyph.
Figure 14

PUNCH Principal Investigator, Craig DeForest explores a tactile image (orange outline) hidden from his sight in the box in front of him (blue draping). He tries to determine which of six images on the sheet atop the box he is “seeing with his hands.” Figure 15 shows a full image of the 6-image sheet. This cross-sensory experience engages sighted learners with the tactiles in a meaningful way that can evoke expressions of empathy and enhanced appreciation for the skills of blind learners. Photo by PUNCH Outreach evaluator S. Buxner

This is a blow-up of the sheet that is on top of the box in Figure 14. It is a labeled montage of six pictures, including three in the top row, and three in the bottom row.   One of these images corresponds to the tactile image being felt in the box. Top Row Left-Middle-Right = Chaco curlicue sandstone rock-carving.  1860 Hand Drawing of total solar eclipse streamers coming out in all directions and an oval-shaped feature in the lower right.  A Chaco pottery bowl including a central circle with curlicue designs all around it.  Bottom row Left-Middle-Right: Photo of a total solar eclipse with coronal streamers coming out in all directions (solar maximum). Photo of a total solar eclipse with coronal streamers coming out the sides (solar minimum). A sunflower.
Figure 15

The six options provided for the “Seeing with Your Hands” activity are on top of the box in Figure 14 so that the learner can choose which of the images they are experiencing in tactile form using only their sense of touch. Photo montage by N. Johnson and C. Morrow with counsel from J. Aubele and J. Aragon. Individual Photo Credits: A: D. Johnson, B: G. Tempel, C: J. Campbell, D and E: High Altitude Observatory, F: Wiki Commons

5. Birthday Sunrises on a Chaco Canyon Horizon

As school children most of us were told that “the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west” and that “the solstices marked the first day of a new season.” Our activity called Birthday Sunrises on a Chaco Canyon Horizon helps correct the misunderstandings that derive from these well-intended teachings, while also encouraging cross-cultural awareness and respect.

This activity features the view to the eastern horizon as seen from the west side of one of the most astronomically remarkable structures in Chaco Canyon – a 60-foot diameter Great Kiva that some call Casa Rinconada (Figure 16). The surrounding area is open to visitors, but not the Kiva itself.

Aerial view of an ancient round building in Chaco Canyon called a Great Kiva. There are some small square and round features visible within the Kiva. There is sparse desert vegetation in the surrounding area with walking paths leading up to and away from the building. There are dashed lines on the building to show its alignments with the cardinal directions, east-west and north-south.  A large, white arrowhead at lower left depicts where one stands on the western side of the Kiva to look eastward toward for sunrises at different times of year.
Figure 16

This Great Kiva in Chaco Canyon is just a few miles from the Rock of the Sun site with the curlicued “eclipse” petroglyph. The structure is aligned to the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W) with modern precision. Doors and niches of the architectural design interact in remarkable ways with significant astronomical events on the horizon that involve both solar and lunar cycles. For this activity, the white arrow indicates the point of view for seeing the eastern horizon in Figure 17 below.

Image of the eastern horizon as seen from the west side of the Great Kiva described in Figure 16.  In the lower part of the frame there is an interior Kiva wall with small niches embedded and then the eastern horizon visible in the distance over the top of the Kiva wall. Three yellow, round disks mark the seasonal sunrise positions on a rocky desert horizon with blue sky over the top. The summer solstice sunrise position is to the northeast (toward the left on the horizon). The winter solstice sunrise position is to the southeast (toward the right on the horizon). The sunrise position of both the spring and fall equinoxes is in between the solstices, marked by a prominent mesa step on the horizon. The written words on the poster invite learners to estimate the position of sunrise on their birthdays.  There is an inset of the author's PUNCH Team card. The card shows her smiling broadly in a Chaco volunteer uniform with a kerchief and hat in the Canyon with a rim-to-rim rainbow arching over her head.
Figure 17

The author (inset) has spent more than a decade as a volunteer for interpretive programs in Chaco Canyon and on countless occasions has facilitated the Birthday Sunrises activity for Chaco visitors to the Great Kiva shown above. Ranger G B Cornucopia (retired in 2022 after 34 years of service) documented the horizon positions of sunrises at cross-culturally meaningful times of year. D. Johnson made the wide-angle photograph. B. Ingermann provided graphic design for the horizon calendar.

Our activity invites participants to consider how the position of sunrise changes throughout the year and how this can be used to create a so-called “horizon calendar” for tracking time and seasons. Field testing at conferences reveals that most people, including modern scientists and science educators, have lost touch with this natural rhythm, and yet are utterly delighted and inspired to learn how it works for predicting their birthday sunrise and any other time of year.

6. Dancing Up a Solar Storm

There are two large pictures side-by-side with a smaller circular image in between that connects them. The circular image in the center shows the graphic design of our Ancient & Modern Sun-watching patch.  The left picture is the team card of a PUNCH scientist and dancer who is wearing an elegant dress and making a beautiful arc in the air with her long silk scarf. Her curly brown hair is also swirled away from her head.  The right picture is a young Girl Scout with a tan scouting vest. Her arms are raised high in the air as she looks upward joyfully at two large, colorful scarves she has just released from her hands.
Figure 18

Left: Front of the PUNCH Team Card for PUNCH scientist Heather Elliot (graphic art by D. Kolinski). Right: A Cadette Girl Scout launching a double CME as part of the Dance Up a Solar Storm activity at our prototype Girl Scout patch-earning event in San Antonio, Texas (photo by C. Morrow). Patch design by D. Kolinski, C. Morrow, and B. Ingermann. Digital image of patch provided by R. Vara. Activity developers include B. Ingermann, J. Trump, N. Byers, and D. Dooling with counsel from the author and other solar scientists on the PUNCH team.

In addition to the PUNCH Team Cards, our collaboration with the Girl Scouts also inspired us to begin developing an activity we call Dancing Up a Solar Storm. We have dancers on the PUNCH team, including our ballet-dancing Mission Scientist, Nicki Viall, and our scientist-dancer Heather Elliott. Heather loves to move and flow with lightweight scarves, making shapes and motions that correspond to features on the Sun and in the heliosphere related to her research (Figure 18, left). In February 2023 she provided a live demonstration for girls participating in a prototype Girl Scout patch-event convened in collaboration with the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas Council and their Girl Experience Manager, R. Vara.

The Cadette Girl Scout pictured (Figure 18, right) was among the patch-earning Girl Scouts of all ages inspired to playful and meaningful movement by Heather’s presentation. As of this writing, we are making changes to this activity and the accompanying resources due to the lessons we learned at this pivotal event. This activity has enormous potential to bring remarkable joy to learning about sunspots, prominences, the Parker Spiral, CMEs, and other space weather features between the Sun and Earth that PUNCH will be imaging with unprecedented quality. There is no believing the Sun is a featureless ball, nor that the heliosphere between the Sun and Earth is empty after participating in our Dancing Up a Solar Storm activity.

7. Conclusion

The author is privileged to lead in service to the PUNCH Public Engagement team which is an extraordinary co-creative group of professionals representing multiple institutions, multiple cultures and languages, multiple generations, multiple skills, and multiple disciplines. There is a collective genius that emerges from our interactions and collaborations that goes beyond what any one person or institution could accomplish on their own. We are privileged to be operating inside a NASA space mission like PUNCH, with supportive leadership and ready access to friendly, mutually beneficial exchanges between experts in solar science and outreach that enhances the quality, accuracy, and humanity of our work.

Shadows of about 25 humans cast on the interior west wall of the Great Kiva after sunrise.
Figure 19

PUNCH Outreach team members attending our first in-person annual retreat experienced sunrise at the Great Kiva. We used solar viewing filters and explored how to sense the Sun’s location in the sky using only our hands and skin in solidarity with our blind advisory board member. The photo shows our shadows being cast on the west wall of the Kiva shortly after sunrise near the time of autumn equinox.

We are a learning team, committed to rigorous field-testing and evaluation of each product or event we develop. Working in a multi-partner collaborative has offered us numerous natural opportunities for receiving formative feedback on our outreach products as they are generously included in larger events already planned by our partners. Moreover, there are countless examples of individual PUNCH Outreach team members expanding their skills and knowledge as needed to support one another and to contribute to the success of our common mission of maximizing our benefit to the lives of diverse people. We do not target audiences for impact. We collaborate with and learn from historically marginalized populations to co-create arts-integrated, multi-cultural, multi-sensory learning opportunities that are enriching for all people.

We have not developed just another pinhole projector with our brands and logos on it. We have intentionally created a game-changing, vigorously vetted learning tool whose careful design we intend to offer freely to anyone who would like to put their own brand on it. Our first experiment with this transference is ongoing with the NASA SHIELD DRIVE Science Center.11

We aspire to make leading-edge NASA science accessible and cross-culturally relevant to diverse people while inviting them to reconnect with the natural world. Natural phenomena like pinhole imaging, polarized light, and the shifting position of sunrises and sunsets can be a delightful source of wonder, curiosity, and inspiration to share with others. We modern humans have ready access to information about our Sun-watching past, present, and future. The PUNCH Outreach Ancient and Modern Sun-Watching theme invites our personal encounters with the Sun to evoke an appreciation for our Sun-watching ancestors and awareness of NASA Sun-watching missions.

PUNCH Outreach is among the groups contributing to the NASA Heliophysics Big Year.9 We are celebrating NASA and natural wonders, including the April 2024 total solar eclipse, Parker Solar Probe’s closest pass through the corona in December 2024,12 and the 2025 PUNCH launch.13

May the diverse modalities of our PUNCH Outreach products14 help prepare you for meaningful witnessing of these events and for ongoing attention to the extraordinary, ordinary star upon which all our lives depend.


PUNCH Outreach is part of the PUNCH mission, a NASA Heliophysics mission managed by the Southwest Research Institute and funded via NASA’s Small Explorers program. Craig DeForest is the Principal Investigator. Sarah Gibson is our Project Scientist. Nicki Viall is our NASA Mission Scientist.

Contact: [email protected]

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