Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Find Beautiful but Overlooked Hubble Pictures

Thanks for being patient as I recharged the old batteries.  Now I'm back from vacation tanned and rested. So it's time to continue the OpenScientist journey...because citizen science keeps moving forward.

Starting simple, today I'm looking at a new contest from NASA and the European Space Agency.  They want our help combing through millions of archived Hubble Telescope pictures to find the most breath-taking, iconic pictures possible.  Sure thousands have been published in the telescope's 25 year history.  But there are many hidden treasures that have not been publicized and are waiting for us to discover them.

There are actually two parts to the contest: the first is searching through the archive for interesting pictures.  Although you can make a few artistic changes to them (like cropping the edges or increasing the contrast) you are mainly submitting the raw image as your contest entry.  The second version asks contestants to alter the images using any photo-manipulation software they wish.  So you can just do a scan for cool photos and submit as is, or let your creativity run wild.

Winners of this contest receive the main prize of seeing their pictures prominently publicized by ESA and NASA.  But adding spice to this dish, the winner of the contests can win an iPod Touch, iPad, and other items.  So what are you waiting for?

Getting Started is Easy:
  • Visit the Hidden Treasures web site to learn more about the telescope and read the contest rules.
  • Read instructions on how to participate in both the Hidden Treasures 2012 Contest and Hidden Treasures 2012 Image Processing Contest.
  • Watch tutorials on searching the Hubble archive here.
  • Once you've found an interesting image, play around with the image a bit by adjusting the sky darkness, lightening or darkening the image, and cropping it in an interesting way.  It's just a minor amount (outside of the image processing contest) but can really make the image pop.
  • Once it's set, save it by clicking the floppy disk icon.  This will add it to a public Flickr account for  the world to see.  Just make sure to add the image's name and the URL where it is located in the archive so everyone else (including the judges) can find it.
  • That's it!
I think you'll find this a fun and interesting project just by itself.  The iPod and iPad prizes are just bonuses.  But even more, I hope you have fun searching an existing archive of real-world NASA data for your own important discoveries.  There is a world of new information that professional scientists have only begun to crack.  They make the data available to everyone...it's up to us to use it.

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