Join NASA's Astrophoto Challenges: M87
Join NASA's Universe of Learning for an exciting opportunity to use real astronomical data and tools to create your own beautiful images of M87. This galaxy may be most famous for containing something we can't technically "see" - a supermassive black hole, whose event horizon was imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope several years ago. 

images of M87 taken in different wavelengths , the images are labeled with the telescope that took them and the wavelength

There are two challenges you can take on on your quest to create your own beautiful image of M87. You can capture your own real-time telescope image of M87 using the MicroObservatory robotic telescope network. You can also choose to work with an archived set of NASA data files of M87 in multiple wavelengths, taken by three of NASA's space telescope missions - Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer - along with the NRAO's ground-based Very Large Array (VLA)! This video explains more about the process for working with the Challenges.

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: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/W. Forman et al.; Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/W. Cotton; Optical: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler. Source

Participants are encouraged to view the NASA press-release versions of M87 hosted via a dedicated page 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 M87.  Submit your creations to the challenges and they may be highlighted as standout entries commented on by NASA experts.

three photos of experts

Enter the challenges here:  The challenge is open through August 16, 2021
You can also learn more about other opportunities to discover the universe for yourselves at NASA's Universe of Learning:

- Brandon Lawton, NASA's Universe of Learning
Last Updated: July 6, 2021

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