Many of the Hubble Space Telescope images have never been looked at.
You can now browse the archives and win valuable prizes for finding cool new pics.
This is a cool, fun thing, and it is easy enough for a theorist to do.
With an iThing and the Dynamic Kids, we had pulled up several dozen sets of images of selected patches of the sky and browsed them, and found seriously cool pics within about 20 minutes.
Cut out of Pal 1 – unprocessed 2 colour – found from random browse and made in about 20 mins
So here is the deal: the Hubble Space Telescope has taken a lot of images.
A LOT of images.
Many of these have never been looked at.
In some cases the PI died before doing so.
More usually these are engineering test images, or “parallel images”, where a second camera was set to take images of wherever it happened to be pointed while another instrument took data of the target.
Sometimes it is simply a matter of the scientists focusing on the analysis of the data, and being so focused on the primary target they literally don’t step back to look at the whole field of view and what might be there.
So, the ESA/Hubble outreach office, run by the European Southern Observatory and with the Space Telescope Science Institute, is crowdsourcing the Hubble archives for cool pics.
The archive has always been there – all NASA data is public and most is on the web (after, in some cases, a brief proprietary period to permit analysis and publication).
What the ESA folk have done is streamlined the browsing of the data a bit and put together a toolkit on a web page with handy links so anyone can go flick through the images, limited primarily by bandwidth.
It is very easy to get started, and remarkably fun to browse through.
This is the raw data – cosmic rays, bad pixels etc.
So, the ESA folks also put together some pipelines to pretty up and colour code the pictures for that professional press release look.
They have a flickr site to submit cool pics you find and make, and they are offering cute iThingies for the best pics.
So go to it!