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Inside NBP

Touching the Stars, Simplifying the Skies

Posted by Pranet Sharma on 2/06/2021
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Touch the Stars Cover image featuring Ursa Major.

Space. Astronomy. The Universe.

These seemingly remote, inhospitable terms may seem even more so for visually impaired individuals; however, with a revolutionary publication, National Braille Press (NBP) has changed that.

Touch the Stars by Noreen Grice is a concise yet powerful work that succinctly covers a broad range of astronomy topics, from an in-depth exploration of our solar system and the various heavenly bodies that fill it to an interstellar journey through the various facets that the cosmos has to offer. Most remarkably, however, this publication allows readers of all ages to quite literally touch the stars, through innovative tactile diagrams that accurately represent the wonders of the sky above us.

Reading through this book, each new page offered a new nugget of insight about the universe presented in an accessible manner and made so fascinating that chapters felt binge-worthy.  Coming across each tactile diagram was a delight; as I felt my fingers skim across the raised surfaces of the planets, stars, and nebulae, a vivid image formed in my mind, a whirling kaleidoscope of emotion filling through me as I sensed objects I have studied in a completely new way.

In today’s times with the entire world in the grip of a pandemic, hope, optimism, and wonder are hard to come by. But I assure you, this book will provide all three along with an innate sensation to read more about the topic. Whether you trace the tumultuous Great Red Spot punching a hole through the Jovian atmosphere or feel the distribution of stars throughout the galaxy marveling at the interstellar space in between, this book is guaranteed to fill you with that passion and curiosity that drives me to study astronomy in the first place.

When I sat down to write this review, I thought of the past. I thought of a time where astronomy was barricaded, only accessible by sighted individuals and scientists. But I am happy that I am living in a world where the accessibility of astronomy has spread, where every single human is able to study it, no matter if they are sighted or not, through the marvelous book that NBP has published.

And when you are finished with Touch the Stars, you will want more. More information about the tremendous cosmos over our heads. More information about our planetary neighborhood. More information about the wonders at the receding edge of the universe. More information about how people have perceived the universe from historical times to today. And for that, I would like to redirect you to my website.

I started www.skysimplified.com with a simple goal that Grice shares through Touch the Stars: making astronomy easy to understand, no matter the audience. The website is made accessible for the visually impaired by widgets that can change the font size as well as increase contrast with the click of a button. My blog articles are written in accessible prose, with a delicate appreciation for the wider world around us: each post takes a deep dive into the topic it discusses, exploring all its facets and all of the nooks and crannies that make it so interesting. This, coupled with an audio widget that plays the blog articles out loud, enables the content to be accessible to anyone regardless of their sightedness.

In addition, I have started a podcast with the goal of exploring astronomy from different perspectives. Did you know that ethics and astronomy have a lot in common? How about cryptography and astronomy? To find out more, you can listen to The SkySimplified Podcast, where I have recorded episodes discussing a wide range of topics and their often unknown but absolutely fascinating connections with astronomy. I have started another series where I break down each blog post entertainingly; if you do not have the time to read/listen to the blogs, you can listen to those episodes to get the relevant content.

I am happy I am living in a world where the internet makes it feasible for anyone to access my webpage, allowing me to share my astronomy knowledge in an in-depth yet clear way to everyone, no matter if they are sighted or not. 

But most of all, I am happy that I am living in a world with the hope that the future has all of humanity, no matter their condition, working together on tangible science that can change the universe.

To order a copy of Touch the Stars, 5th Edition by Noreen Rice, visit the NBP Bookstore.

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