Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Visualizing the Center of the Milky Way

Robert Hurt, PhD, is an astronomer working on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope mission, an infrared counterpart to the Hubble Space Telescope. He is a part of the public affairs team and oversees science visual communications for the project. This encompasses rendering research data as visual imagery and in conveying scientific results through illustration and artwork. He is part of the "FITS Liberator" development team, a Photoshop plugin that directly imports astronomy research imagery.

How are these images created?
Robert Hurt: Observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope are distributed in a FITS file format that is common to the field of astronomy. To make the jump from data to image, many observatories now use the FITS Liberator plugin for Photoshop. This freely-distributed import filter acts like a digital darkroom for the image. You can preview the image, set the black and white points, and even select between several functions to compress the dynamic range of the image.

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