Hubble Cosmic Data Story Debut in High School Classrooms

Hubble Cosmic Data Story Debut in High School Classrooms

The NASA Science Activation Cosmic Data Stories project team, led by Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, pilot tested a new Data Story about Hubble's Law, designed for use in high school astronomy and physics classes and introductory astronomy classes at community colleges and universities. The Hubble Data Story is a 3-hour lab experience where students choose their own set of five galaxies and use authentic astronomical data to measure velocities and estimate distances to their galaxies. Students learn how to use their data to estimate the age of the universe and compare their results with those of their classmates and other students to gain a more intuitive understanding of random and systematic uncertainties in data.

To evaluate the Hubble Data Story, the Cosmic Data Stories team administered a pre- and post- assessments to compare student understanding and attitudes before and after their Data Story experience. In their pilot test with 20 physics and astronomy students at a high school in Milton, MA in late October, 2022, they found statistically significant improvements in astronomy content knowledge, data interpretation skills, confidence in learning from data, and understanding of the nature of science. One high school teacher, Jim Kernohan, had this to say, "I liked the discussion of how confident the students are of their result. This meta-analysis is often missing and gets to the heart of the matter. Instead of saying, 'I've proved Hubble's Law' students are saying, 'here is the data that supports this interpretation and here is how confident I am'. This project easily fits in with an astronomy class or physics class, and I will certainly use it again."

Additional technical work is underway to allow broader implementation of the Hubble Data Story, which the team expects to be complete in Spring of 2023. Learn more at

The Cosmic Data Stories project is supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number 80NSSC21M0002 and is part of NASA’s Science Activation Portfolio. Learn more about how Science Activation connects NASA science experts, real content, and experiences with community leaders to do science in ways that activate minds and promote deeper understanding of our world and beyond:

A high school physics teacher and four students sit at a table with computers while using the Hubble Data Story app. The teacher is answering questions to a student who requested guidance. Two other students are working as a team and one smiles broadly. The fourth student examines a graph of the galaxy data she has collected.

A high school physics and astronomy teacher guides students through the Hubble Data Story as they collect their own galaxy data to demonstrate the expansion of the universe and estimate its age.