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  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Dana Berry, , , Space Telescope Science Institute   

    From smithsonian.com: “The Supernova That Launched a Thousand Gorgeous Space Images” Dana Berry 

    smithsonian
    From smithsonian.com

    July 17, 2018
    Casey Rentz

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    Berry started his career colorizing actual telescope data. His more recent work includes this artistic impression of a black hole at the heart of galaxy NGC 1068. The material trapped around the black hole is moving so fast that the light itself is either compressed to blue where the material is coming toward the viewer, or stretched to red, where it is rushing away from the viewer. (Dana Berry / SkyWorks / NRAO / NSF)

    In 1990, Dana Berry was messing around with a precursor to the software program Photoshop at NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute, where he worked as a science visualizer.

    Space Telescope Science Institute operated for NASA by AURA

    The Hubble Telescope had launched that year, and all around him, the Institute’s scientists were busy analyzing and releasing about a half dozen deep space images. But all were grainy and monochrome—not exactly ideal for conveying the dazzling mystery of the cosmos.

    One day, astrophysicist Eric Chaisson walked over to Berry’s office with a picture of a supernova exploding. It was a remarkable event to be caught on camera, but the black-and-white palette did it no justice. Chaisson suggested that Berry colorize the image, mostly for the wow-factor. He argued that color was scientifically justifiable since the supernova actually did reflect colored light, but Hubble’s camera was only set to capture light at 5007 angstroms.

    Berry sat down to his Silicon Graphics Iris 3130 computer—bigger than a mini-fridge with less computing power than the original iPhone—and began toying with the image.

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    Silicon Graphics Iris 3130

    “I frankly couldn’t believe my good fortune that I was doing this,” Berry says now.

    In keeping with Chaisson’s request, he colored the blob in the center pink because to represent hydrogen, which glows magenta when it burns in the laboratory. He colored the ring yellow because it emitted sulfur, which burns yellow in the lab. He colored the two stars on either side a kind of pool blue because hot stars burn either blue or white/blue. Berry was tempted to add small, distant stars in the background like you would see if the camera could’ve focused on the whole scene at once, but decided against it: “I handled that image as gingerly as I could, as if the scientific data was holy in a way,” he says.

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    Berry shooting Hubble’s Amazing Universe for National Geographic in 2008. (Dana Berry)

    Berry’s admiration for NASA exploration went deep. When he was young, he followed the Apollo missions with great zeal. One day he and his father learned that one of the Apollo capsules would reenter the atmosphere and splash down over the Atlantic somewhere between their hometown, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Puerto Rico. They drove to the beach and looked out over the ocean for hours. Once, they swore they saw a white streak grace the sky. Berry was also inspired by Carl Sagan’s 1980 documentary Cosmos. In college, he majored in art but took as many astronomy courses as he could. In astronomy, “I could see these things I was reading about,” he says.

    In 1987, he had graduated and was making PowerPoint graphics for businesses when he saw an ad for the job at the Space Telescope Science Institute. They were looking for a computer scientist, but he interviewed anyway and, as he puts it, “talked his way into the job.” When the first images started coming through, he and everyone at the Institute immediately started contemplating how they could be best used.

    At the time, the space program was facing significant challenges. By the time Hubble launched, it had cost more than $2 billion and had the unfortunate timing of being the next big project to come after the space shuttle Challenger, which had exploded over onlookers in Florida. Everyone was watching Hubble. To add to the anxiety, scientists discovered post-launch that Hubble’s main mirror had a manufacturing defect.

    News media ridiculed NASA, and Hubble became the butt of Jay Leno’s late-night jokes. “What sound does a space turkey make? Hubble, Hubble, Hubble,” the comedian quipped on an early 1990’s broadcast.

    The first Hubble color image of Supernova 1987A, colored by Berry, was released to news media on August 29, 1990, and immediately mesmerized astronomy lovers and piqued the interest of the general public.

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    A String of ‘Cosmic Pearls’ Surrounds an Exploding Star

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    Hubble’s first colorized space image was this image of a supernova taken with the European Space Agency’s Faint Object Camera on August 23, 1990. (Dana Berry / Space Telescope Science Institute)

    The chatter among scientists was not all positive, though, Berry recalls. Some said the picture was not strictly accurate; artistic license had been taken with the color additions.

    But beyond translating the science, Supernova 1987A and other images served another key purpose as well. They showed off what Hubble could do—that is, capture amazing images that ground telescopes couldn’t—and re-ignited the public interest in space exploration. “The value of the public outreach was not understood in the general scientific community,” Berry says, “but that changed and I think Hubble was a catalyst for that change.”

    Other institutions took notice. After several years at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Berry took a job at Tufts University and then at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is headquartered at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, where he used similar techniques to color images of supernova, nebulae and planets. Sometimes the pictures were taken differently—through color filters or at multiple wavelengths—but for most of them, Berry relied on his trusty Photoshop to make them pop. Sometimes multiple images needed to be patched together or layered on top of one another to remove a cosmic glare and Berry did that, too. For Chandra, he also made animations of black holes and of the Chandra spacecraft itself, which are still used there today.

    By this time, these institutions employed entire teams of science visualizers. Kimberly Arcand, now Visualization Lead at Chandra, recalls working with Berry for an animation of Cassiopeia A, a supernova remnant.

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    A false color image of Cassiopeia A (Cas A) using observations from both the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes as well as the Chandra X-ray Observatory (cropped).
    9 June 2005
    http://gallery.spitzer.caltech.edu/Imagegallery/image.php?image_name=ssc2005-14c
    Author Oliver Krause (Steward Observatory) George H. Rieke (Steward Observatory) Stephan M. Birkmann (Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie) Emeric Le Floc’h (Steward Observatory) Karl D. Gordon (Steward Observatory) Eiichi Egami (Steward Observatory) John Bieging (Steward Observatory) John P. Hughes (Rutgers University) Erick Young (Steward Observatory) Joannah L. Hinz (Steward Observatory) Sascha P. Quanz (Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie) Dean C. Hines (Space Science Institute) Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    “I definitely looked up to Dana as to what was possible in a career,” she says. Arcand is using the same decades-old data to make significantly more cutting-edge animations of Cassiopeia A in virtual reality.

    After Chandra, Berry landed a job as lead animator at Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which brought back images in microwaves and whose scientists won the 2018 Breakthrough Prize for their detailed maps of the early universe. Meanwhile, the Hubble images, now colored by Berry’s successor and visualization savant Zolt Levay and his team, started to look more and more like paintings. Pillars of Creation, a mélange of 32 different images taken in 1995 by four different Hubble cameras, used a similar technique similar to what Berry used on his first job: green for Hydrogen, red for ionized sulfur, blue for ionized oxygen.

    Pillars of Creation. in the Eagle Nebula, NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Eagle Nebula NASA/ESA Hubble Public Domain

    Pillars is now the most recognizable of all the Hubble images. And the technique of using art to communicate science had caught on: beyond still images, animation presented an opportunity for TV networks like Discovery, National Geographic and the Smithsonian to make more enthralling space documentaries, and Berry was interested in that direction as well. In the 2000s, Berry got a call from Steve Burns at Discovery Channel who was looking for someone to help produce the 25th-anniversary edition of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the iconic documentary he had admired as a kid.

    Berry was jazzed. “I had basically been asked to clean up the Mona Lisa,” he recalls.

    Berry combed through the film, cutting outdated bits and updating several animations. Ann Druyan argued that some animations should stay no matter what, like the line drawing of evolution through all of time. “Starting documentary work wasn’t the same cold splash that landing the job at Space Telescope was, but I felt pretty excited nevertheless,” he says. He finished the update in a mere 3 months.

    After Cosmos, Berry worked on an episode of The Universe series for The History Channel in 2008 and published the book Smithsonian Intimate Guide to the Cosmos in 2008. In the same year, he wrote and produced the documentary Hubble’s Amazing Universe for the TV show Naked Science, and in 2009 wrote and directed Alien Earths for National Geographic, which garnered an Emmy nomination.

    n 2014, Berry was asked to work on a few mini-segments for the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. His role would be pre-visualization: thinking about how to illustrate DNA dividing, water evaporating, and other things happening on a molecular scale. Dozens of other science visualizers and graphics people worked on the documentary. When it was released, Cosmos: A Space-time Odyssey became the most watched series ever for National Geographic International.

    Today, there are frequently scientists who take issue with how science-minded films portray concepts like multi-dimensional worlds, time travel, and end-of-universe scenarios. But the value of using art for science outreach is indisputable. “Hubble set the bar, and established astronomy outreach as a really valid thing to do,” says Arcand. Another early colleague of Berry’s at The Space Telescope Science Institute, Ray Villard, now News Director there, agrees. “The success of the Hubble pictures is that they present the awe and wonder of the universe without scaring some people away with scientific terminology,” he says.

    Berry is thankful for witnessing the growth of science visualization as a beloved profession. “One of the legacies of Hubble was the fact that art was brought into the service of science,” he says. “There will never be another big science project that doesn’t benefit from visualization tools.”

    See the full article here .

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    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:20 am on October 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Science Magazine: NASA weighs trimming WFIRST to hold down costs 

    ScienceMag
    Science Magazine

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    The proposed Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. NASA

    Oct. 23, 2017
    Daniel Clery

    NASA will have to scale back its next big orbiting observatory to avoid busting its budget and affecting other missions, an independent panel says. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is due for launch in the mid-2020s. But 1 year after NASA gave the greenlight its projected cost is $3.6 billion, roughly 12% overbudget.

    “I believe reductions in scope and complexity are needed,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., wrote in a memo that NASA released last Thursday.

    Designed to investigate the nature of dark energy and study exoplanets, WFIRST was chosen by the astronomy community as its top space-based mission priority in the 2010 decadal survey entitled New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. But the start of the project was initially delayed by the huge overspend on its predecessor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2019.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Then last year, a midterm review of the 2010 decadal survey warned that WFIRST could go the same way and advised NASA to form a panel of independent experts to review the project.

    NASA assembled that panel in April this year and it recently submitted its conclusions. The agency has not released its report, as it is due to be discussed by the Committee for Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine this week, but it did release a memo from Zurbuchen to Christopher Scolese, director of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which is leading the project.

    In it, Zurbuchen directs the lab “to study modifying the current WFIRST design … to reduce cost and complexity sufficient to have a cost estimate consistent with the $3.2 billion cost target [set last year].” Though the panel heaped praise on the WFIRST team for the work done so far, according to Zurbuchen’s memo, it faulted NASA managers for creating several challenges that have made the project “more complicated than originally anticipated.”

    Paul Hertz, head of NASA’s astrophysics division, told ScienceInsider that one major demand was enlarging the spacecraft to accommodate a 2.4-meter mirror that the National Reconnaissance Office donated in 2012. Another was adding an instrument called a coronagraph.

    WFIRST, which will have the sensitivity of the Hubble Space Telescope but with 100 times its field of view, was originally designed to survey the sky for signs of cosmic acceleration caused by dark energy. But when exoplanet researchers realized it would also benefit their field they lobbied for the inclusion of a coronagraph. This device acts as a mask inside the telescope to block out the glaring brightness of a star and reveal any dim planets around it.

    NASA also decided to split the ground segment for the mission between the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    And in an act of future-proofing, NASA wanted WFIRST to carry equipment making it compatible with a starshade, a proposed spacecraft that can be stationed at a distance to block out starlight and reveal exoplanets (more effectively than a coronagraph). “All these things added complexity,” Hertz says.

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    Starshade. NASA

    Zurbuchen’s memo to Scolese directs the lab to retain the basic elements of the mission—the 2.4-meter mirror, widefield camera, and coronagraph—but to seek cost-saving “reductions.” Hertz says this will require reducing the capabilities of instruments but ensuring they remain “above the science floor laid down by the decadal survey.” The coronagraph will be recategorized as a “technology demonstration instrument,” removing the burden of achieving a scientific target. The change will also save money, Hertz explains.

    Hertz says exoplanet researchers shouldn’t worry about the proposed changes. “We know we’ll get good science out of the coronagraph. We’ll be able to see debris disks, zodiacal dust, and exoplanets in wide orbits,” he says. Astronomers wanting to see Earth twins in the habitable zone may be disappointed, however.

    Zurbuchen also asked project managers to save money in the ground segment and by letting industry build some components or subsystems. The WFIRST team will need to submit a revised design by February 2018, before vendors are chosen, to begin building the hardware.

    If costs continue to escalate, Zurbuchen says in his memo, NASA may need to abandon the 2.4-meter mirror and revert to the original, cheaper design using a 1.5-meter one. “That is plan B,” says Hertz, “but we very much like the 2.4-meter mirror.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on November 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA Hubble, Too Good to Miss: “Merging clusters in 30 Doradus” 


    ESA/Hubble

    This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a pair of star clusters that are believed to be in the early stages of merging. The clusters lie in the gigantic 30 Doradus Nebula [also known as Tarantula Nebula], which is 170,000 light-years from Earth

    dor
    Credits: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI) Acknowledgment: R. O’Connell (University of Virginia) and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee

    Hubble’s circumstantial evidence for the impending collision comes from seeing an elongated structure in the cluster at upper left, and from measuring a different age between the two clusters. Also, the unusually large number of high-velocity stars around 30 Doradus can finally be explained if a small cluster has merged into the big cluster R136 in the centre of the Tarantula Nebula.

    This nearby example of cluster interaction yields insights into how star clusters may have formed in the early Universe.

    The Hubble observations, made with the Wide Field Camera 3, were taken 20-27 October, 2009. The blue colour is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen.

    The complete article is here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international co-operation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

    The main scientific office for Hubble is located at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA, though the telescope is used by scientists around the world. The education and public outreach office for ESA’s share of the Hubble Space Telescope (known as ESA/Hubble), which runs the spacetelescope.org website, is located at the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany.


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  • richardmitnick 3:48 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Space Telescope Science Institute, Speaking of Hubble   

    From Speaking of Hubble: “The Life Cycles of Stars” 


    April 5, 2012
    Jason Kalirai

    “As you stargaze over the next few weeks, keep in mind that most of those tiny points of light scattered across the sky are burning infernos of gas. These stars are very much like the Sun. Some are bigger and more powerful, and some smaller. But they are not constant. Stars change over time, and evolve into different states. Understanding this process of stellar evolution is my primary passion in astronomy, and was the focus of a meeting we just held at the Space Telescope Science Institute, ‘The Mass Loss Return from Stars to Galaxies’.

    A low-mass star, like our Sun, will slowly burn its hydrogen into helium, and remain in a state of equilibrium for billions of years. This is great for us on Earth, since it provides us with a stable environment. But in about 4 billion years, the Sun will expand and begin to lose its outer layers. During this stage, called the red giant phase, the Sun will be so large that it will encompass the Earth’s orbit around it, crisping our planet!

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    (Wikipedia)The size of the current Sun (now in the main sequence) compared to its estimated size during its red giant phase in the future. No image credit

    Interested? See the full article here.

    Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) — home of science program selection, grant administration, planning, scheduling, and public outreach activities for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). STScI provides data archive and distribution for all of NASA’s optical/UV missions, including HST. STScI is also the science and operations center for the 6.5m James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

     
  • richardmitnick 10:20 am on December 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA: “NASA Telescopes Help Find Rare Galaxy at Dawn of Time” 

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    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/University of Tokyo

    “This image shows one of the most distant galaxies known, called GN-108036, dating back to 750 million years after the Big Bang that created our universe. The galaxy’s light took 12.9 billion years to reach us.

    The galaxy was discovered and confirmed using the Subaru telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, respectively, both located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. After the galaxy was discovered, astronomers looked at infrared observations of it taken by NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, and were surprised by how bright the galaxy appeared. This brightness resulted from an extreme burst of star formation — a rare event for such an early cosmic era. In fact, GN-108036 is the most luminous galaxy found to date at these great distances.

    Astronomers refer to a galaxy’s distance by its “redshift,” a number that refers to how much the light has been stretched to longer, redder wavelengths by the expansion of the universe. Galaxies with higher redshifts are more distant, and are seen farther back in time. GN-108036 has a redshift of 7.2, making it one of only a handful of galaxies detected this far away and this early in cosmic history.

    The main Hubble image shows a field of galaxies, known as the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey, or GOODS. A close-up of the Hubble image, and a Spitzer image, are called out at right. In the Spitzer image, infrared light captured by its Infrared Array Camera at wavelengths of 3.6 and 4.5 microns is colored green and red, respectively. In the Hubble image, visible light taken by its Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument at 0.6 and 0.9 microns is blue and green, respectively, while infrared light captured by Hubble’s new Wide Field Camera 3 at 1.6 microns is red. GN-108036 is only detected in the infrared, and is completely invisible in the optical Hubble images, explaining its very red color in this picture.”

    See the full article here, where you will also find further links.



    Spitzer

    The Spitzer Space Telescope is a NASA mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology and part of NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center.
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    Hubble

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:49 pm on December 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Space Telescope Science Institute   

    From NASA: “A ‘Rose’ Made of Galaxies” 

    In celebration of the twenty-first anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment in April 2011, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute pointed Hubble’s eye to an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

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    he larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. A swath of blue jewels across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.

    The smaller, nearly edge-on companion shows distinct signs of intense star formation at its nucleus, perhaps triggered by the encounter with the companion galaxy.

    A series of uncommon spiral patterns in the large galaxy is a tell-tale sign of interaction. The large, outer arm appears partially as a ring, a feature seen when interacting galaxies actually pass through one another. This suggests that the smaller companion actually dived deep, but off-center, through UGC 1810. The inner set of spiral arms is highly warped out of the plane with one of the arms going behind the bulge and coming back out the other side. How these two spiral patterns connect is still not precisely known.

    The interaction was imaged on Dec. 17, 2010, with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

    This Hubble image is a composite of data taken with three separate filters on WFC3 that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue and red portions of the spectrum.

    Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    See the article here.

     
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