“TULIPS” lets astronomy flourish in the classroom

30. November 2021

HITS researcher Eva Laplace has developed a software that visualizes the evolution of stars in short movies. For this project that portrays the life of stars in an intuitive way, she received an outreach award by the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities in the Netherlands.

Eva Laplace (Photo: HITS)

One of the current challenges in modern science education  is  connecting  fast-pace  science  results, data and methodologies with the educational ecosystem. Astronomy education, for instance, can – like astronomy research – use data to describe  the  universe  and  answer  questions  with  the  help  of  data  analysis  and visualization tools.

To this end, HITS astrophysicist Eva Laplace (Stellar Evolution Theory group) has developed the software tool “TULIPS” that makes it easier to comprehend astronomical diagrams that are often complex and difficult to explain to students. “TULIPS” stands for “Tool for Understanding the Lives, Interiors and Physics of Stars”. It tackles the educational challenge of using real research tools in the classroom by providing a research-level visualization tool that makes stellar evolution theory accessible. The tool not only allows astronomers and nonprofessionals to see the size and color of the star. Other properties such as the changing composition of a star and the processes that take place in the interior of the star also become visible. In addition, stars are easier to compare with each other.

For her work that she had started as a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, Eva Laplace received the “ET Outreach Award” of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities in November 2020. Due to the pandemic, the ceremony was held digitally, as well as her report on the project that she submitted on 29 November 2021.

In the meantime, Eva Laplace has developed the project by hiring a student assistant to write a documentation and tutorials, thanks to the € 5,000 award. The TULIPS software and an article about it has recently been published . Up to now, the software has been downloaded more than 1000 times and the website is visited by 50 people per day. TULIPS has been used in lectures in the USA, Argentina and Germany, among others, to illustrate the evolution of the stars. It has also been used in schools and, for example, at Tel Aviv Youth University in Israel.

“NASA’s Exoplanet Modeling and Analysis Center will add TULIPS to their list of analysis software”, says Eva Laplace, who just joined the new HITS research group Stellar Evolution Theory” (SET) in October 2021. “And I am in the process of creating videos using TULIPS to easily explain the evolution of stars to a general audience.”

Scientific contact:
Dr. Eva Laplace
Stellar Evolution Theory group (SET)

About HITS

The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.

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