The Hubble Space Telescope has produced some of the most spectacular images known to man, but there's a large segment of the population who've been unable to enjoy them: the blind. A pair of astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute aim to change that, though, by producing tactile "images" of the universe using a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer. While such prints can be made from almost any object, the duo's biggest challenge was figuring out the 3D structure of objects like galaxies -- and then making it possible, through feel, for the visually impaired to picture them in their mind's eye. So far, they've developed 3D prototypes showing stars, gas clouds, filaments and more using lines, raised circles and dots formed formed in plastic. The group hopes to one day produce tactile pictures for schools, libraries and the public -- meanwhile, check the video after the break to see what the first users thought about it.
[Image credit: NASA, ESA and M. Estacion]