Hubble Image Processors

Hubble Image Processors

Facebook: Hubble Image Processors

Amateur astronomical image processors gather here to exchange information and advice, and show off their work. Professional Hubble processors visit the community to answer questions and share their thoughts. Post a picture, ask a question, and enjoy the discussion.

Raiders of the Hubble Archive

Only some of the pictures captured by Hubble are processed into the stunning color images the world has grown to know. Many more reside in the Hubble archives, black-and-white data that are accessible to the public but usually ignored.

That's where amateur image processors come in. Experts in photography, science or both, they mine Hubble's trove of more than a million observations for the unacknowledged gems within and shine them to the same brilliance as the more famous Hubble images.

If you're an astronomical image processor, this page is for you. Need help and advice? Join the community on our Facebook page, where professional processors and amateurs can mingle, trade tips, and share their work. Curious and want to know more? Check the resources below for how-to guides and tools.

Processing Hubble Images

Processing Hubble images from archived data takes skill, care, and technical know-how. Processors must be familiar with combining multiple images, reducing noise, applying color, and adjusting brightness and contrast, among other critical steps. They must have a working knowledge of image processing software and a basic understanding of Hubble instruments and data in order to pick out useful datasets, and to appropriately scale intensities and assign colors to images. Finally, they must be able to take into account the multiple challenges of creating a visually accurate image, an informative image, and a beautiful image.

Visualizing Hubble Data

This article presents the basics for creating a Hubble image from unprocessed data. The steps in this article have been outlined by Zolt Levay, Imaging Group Lead in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute. For the past 18 years, Levay has primarily been responsible for producing publicly accessible images from Hubble Space Telescope data to illustrate Hubble's science discoveries. He is Principal Investigator of the Hubble Heritage Team, which strives to establish a repository of the visually finest Hubble imagery.

Video: Hubble Image Processors Hangout

Are you an amateur astronomical image processor wondering how the pros do it? Are you just curious to see how a Hubble picture is processed from raw imagery? This Google Hangout, hosted by Tony Darnell of YouTube's Deep Astronomy, featured Hubble Imaging Group Lead Zolt Levay, who creates many of Hubble's famous images. Mr. Levay took us through an example of image processing using data for Hubble's well-known image of Stephan's Quintet.

Editorial note: Due to a glitch, the first several minutes of this video were not recorded. The missing minutes cover introductions and the beginning of the demonstration, which details how to locate and retrieve data from the Hubble Legacy Archive. Mr. Levay selects the galaxy grouping Stephan's Quintet, and locates images taken in three filters, isolating different colors of light from the galaxies.

Video: Creating a Hubble Galaxiy in Two Minutes

Hubble images are made, not born. Images must be woven together from the incoming data from the cameras, cleaned up and given colors that bring out features that eyes would otherwise miss. In this video, a Hubble-imaged galaxy comes together on the screen at super-fast speed.

Data Archives

Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes MAST

The Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) is a NASA-funded project to support and provide to the astronomical community a variety of astronomical data archives, with the primary focus on scientifically related data sets in the optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared parts of the spectrum. MAST stores data from Hubble, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, and more.

Hubble Legacy Archive HLA

The Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA) is designed to optimize science from the Hubble Space Telescope by providing Hubble data; online, enhanced Hubble products; and advanced browsing capabilities. The HLA is a joint project of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility, and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre.

Processing Tools

FITS Liberator Free plugin for Adobe Photoshop

The ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator is a free plugin for Adobe Photoshop, which makes it possible to process and edit astronomical science data in the FITS format to produce stunning images of the universe.

The FITS file format archives nearly all images of stars, nebulae and galaxies produced by space- and ground-based telescopes from all over the world.

The engine behind the FITS Liberator is NASA's CFITSIO library. FITS is an abbreviation for Flexible Image Transport System. It has been a standard since 1982, and is recognized by the International Astronomical Union.