Launch the Coding Activities

Grades 4-12 students with no prior coding experience can learn how to use computers to create images and understand astronomical data. Participants learn basic coding starting with familiar objects and simple concepts such as shape and color, graduating to astronomical objects. Following a scaffolded set of activities, and working with data from NASA orbiting telescopes on sources from exploded stars to star-forming regions, to galaxies, to black holes, participants can experience real world application of science, technology and even art.

Note: This activity can take from 40-75 minutes, depending on the total number of students, the length of time allotted per step, etc.

Lesson 1: Recoloring the Universe


Lesson 2: Recoloring the Universe
Intro 2


Lesson 3: Recolor
Create a color

Lesson 4: Scene
Explore filters and color-shifting

Lesson 5: Flowers
Mash up two images

Lesson 6: Supernova
Create a colored image of
an exploding star

Lesson 7: Starforming
Explore a deep six-wavelength
stack of astronomy images

Lesson 8: Review
Contact Us
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophisics
60 Garden Street,
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Acknowledgements: Recoloring the Universe with Pencil Code was created by volunteers David Bau (developer of Pencil Code and a Google employee at the time), August Muench (astronomer for the American Astronomical Society), Kim Arcand (visualization lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory), and Sydney Pickens and Matthew Dawson (both computer science educators with Google CS First.). Further work has been developed with support from the Chandra X-ray Center, at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Cambridge, MA. Recoloring the Universe is also supported by NASA with funding under contract NAS8-03060.

Chandra AAS CODE Google CS First Pencil Code