36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 12 Prize Lectures
Invited, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 1:30-4:00pm, Lewis

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[12.03] Sagan Medal Paper: Improving Impact in Public Outreach

D. Morrison (NASA Astrobiology Institute)

Carl Sagan was masterful at reaching a wide public. He had great native talent as an educator, and he worked hard to hone his ability to promote his image as a television personality. Through TV as well as writing, he reached a far wider audience than would have been possible by classroom teaching or other direct personal contact. While none of us is “another Sagan”, we can draw lessons from his use of media to leverage his message. One way to multiply our impact is through contributing to textbooks. I jumped at the opportunity to take on the popular George Abell college astronomy texts when the author unexpectedly died. I hoped that as a planetary scientist involved in NASA missions, I could do a better job than most astronomers to convey the excitement of planetary exploration. One edition of a text can reach tens of thousands of students and may represent the only college science course they will take. In the 1980s it was difficult for educators and writers to obtain high quality NASA images. Voyager and other missions issued press releases of first products, but the later, more carefully processed images were unavailable. By selecting the best planetary images and making them available with captions as slide sets, I could reach another large audience. Later I helped establish the NASA-USGS Planetary Photojournal for web-based images and captions. Developing websites for the public is today one of the best ways to broaden the impact of our work. My impact hazard website is now a decade old and exceeds a million hits a month. I also distribute “NEO News” via e-mail to more than 800 readers. I believe that the public is hungry for reliable, understandable information. We can all look at ways to use modern technology to help provide it.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.