Cosmic Fireworks:  Make Your Own Festive Galaxy with NASA's Astrophoto Challenges
Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/UofA

Join NASA's Universe of Learning for an exciting opportunity to use real astronomical data and tools to create your own beautiful images of the iconic starburst galaxy M82. You can capture your own real-time telescope image of M82 using the MicroObservatory robotic telescope network, or you can work with an archived set of NASA data files of M82, taken with 4 multi-wavelength space telescope missions: Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and GALEX.

photo of a small robotic telescope in the desert
gallery of potential targets for the microobservatory telescopes
Capture and process your own images with the MicroObservatory robotic telescope network. Credit: SAO

The NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges provide learners of all familiarity levels authentic experiences using NASA Astrophysics data.  Participants in the challenges engage in the scientific practices of a scientist through the data tools and experiences in creating and sharing their composite images. 

children working on astronomy photo processing
Participants working with NASA data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Credit: Image courtesy of SAO/Timothy Smith Network

The NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges include instructions on how to turn the data into beautiful composite images with a simple and free web-based image processing tool used by professional astronomers.  The JS9 image processing tool is widely used by the astronomical community to process and analyze the data from the world’s premiere research telescopes.  NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges uses a version of this tool, JS9-4L, developed for life-long learners with a range of experiences using data.

sample astronomical image
Create your own composite image with the JS9-4L image processing tool. Credit: SAO

Participants are encouraged to view the NASA press-release versions of the M82 starburst galaxy hosted on AstroPix.  By comparing and contrasting their own creations with the press-release versions, participants in the challenge gain an understanding of the variety of ways a scientist can use image processing to enhance specific features within an image.

thumbnails of NASA galaxy images
Compare and contrast your image with those from official NASA press-releases, hosted on AstroPix. Credit: NASA’s Universe of Learning


The challenges also feature short videos by professional astronomers.  These subject matter experts provide science content knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum and M82.  Submit your creations to the challenges and they may be highlighted as standout entries commented on by NASA experts.

Thumbnails of NASA experts commenting on images from previous challenges
Subject matter experts provide key insights into the M82 starburst galaxy, as observed across the electromagnetic spectrum. Credit: NASA’s Universe of Learning

Enter the challenge, here: https://mo-www.cfa.harvard.edu/OWN/astrophoto.  The challenge is open through February 29, 2020.
 
You can also learn more about other opportunities to discover the universe for yourselves at NASA's Universe of Learning:  https://www.universe-of-learning.org/

- Brandon Lawton, NASA's Universe of Learning

Last Updated: January 16, 2020
 
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