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News Release Archive:

News Release 554 of 948

June 4, 2001 12:30 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2001-17

Build Your Own Space Scrapbook

The full news release story:

Build Your Own Space ScrapbookView this image

Want to learn more about your favorite star or galaxy? NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures and other information about thousands of stars and galaxies beyond our solar system are just a mouse click away by visiting the "Spectral/Image Scrapbook."

Developed by the Multi-Mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST) team in Baltimore, MD, the first version of the "scrapbook" will be unveiled today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena, CA. This new astronomy Web resource provides easy access to the rich repository of black-and-white images and spectra of stars and galaxies stored in the MAST digital archives. While a picture shows astronomers what a celestial object looks like, a spectrum provides information about its physical nature and its motion toward or away from Earth. Astronomers analyze spectra and images of a celestial body to get a complete picture.

The MAST archives were created three and one-half years ago as a single collection of data taken in ultraviolet and visible light by NASA space-borne missions, such as the Hubble telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer. These data were previously archived at multiple places. The information from a variety of wavelength regions offers a complete spectrum or picture of a star or galaxy. Such comprehensive information helps to eliminate false impressions about the object from data covering only a few wavelength regions.

The archives contain spectra of more than 10,000 astronomical objects, including more than 9,000 obtained from the International Ultraviolet Explorer, which was in operation from 1978 to 1996. The archives also house images of nearly 8,000 small regions of the sky observed by Hubble. Astronomers using the scrapbook can quickly sample data from several missions.

"Scientific intuition begins with a question," says MAST scrapbook team leader Dr. Myron Smith. "We are trying to help astronomers act on that intuition by providing a tool to answer such questions as quickly as possible after they are posed."

Adds team member Dr. Catherine Imhoff: "Getting these results from a few NASA satellite missions a few years ago would have taken days, and now it takes minutes."

Although the scrapbook is a valuable research tool for astronomers, the public can use it to gather information about favorite celestial targets. Here's how the scrapbook works: Enter an object's name or location on the scrapbook Web page (http://archive.stsci.edu/scrapbook.php). Select whether you're looking for images or spectra of the object. The scrapbook will search the archives for the data and display them on the Web page. For most missions, the data can be downloaded for numerical analysis.

While astronomers can use the scrapbook to study individual objects in detail, they also can employ it to search for data on a group of stars or galaxies near one another in the sky. And the scrapbook can be used in the classroom or at home. Students can explore actual data of stars and galaxies, rather than only viewing the smaller public gallery of beautiful Hubble pictures.

The MAST team already is working on improvements to the scrapbook. Aside from including data from additional missions, including the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, plans are already on the drawing board to extend the wavelength coverage and present a separate search page tailored to the public. The scrapbook is one step in getting the "whole picture" of stars and galaxies, leading to a better understanding of our universe.

CONTACT

Donna Weaver
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
Phone: 410-338-4493; E-mail: dweaver@stsci.edu)

Myron Smith
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
Phone: 410-338-5036; E-mail; msmith@stsci.edu)