Crafting a Hubble galaxy in two minutes

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March 24 2011 12:00 PM

Crafting a Hubble galaxy in two minutes

Have you ever wondered how those gorgeous Hubble pictures of distant cosmic objects are made?

Well, lucky you! My old pal Tiffany Borders alerted me to a video she and some other folks at the Space Telescope Science Institute put together. It's a delightful whirlwind tour of how they go from digital data to stunning shots, using screenshots tied together into a two-minute frenetic animation:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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How cool is that? I'll note that when astronomers actually do science with the images, they use the raw data which is processed very carefully to maintain the data's integrity. The beautiful pictures made the way shown in the video are for show... but I've found that they can help guide the eye to features you might miss in the individual images, too. So this isn't just Photoshop trickery!

The galaxy in the video is the spectacular spiral NGC 3982, which I described in a little more detail when this image came out last year. Coincidentally, in that post I focused more on how the image was constructed than the science in it (though I have links there describing spiral galaxies).

And who knew Khachaturian would go so well with constructing Hubble images? Actually, I did -- when I worked on Hubble data I listened to a lot of music, and that included Khachaturian's Gayane suite -- oh, how it makes my Slavic DNA sing! Nice to see it still fits, too.



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