Comment on Hubble vs Amateur Astrophotography

Hubble vs. Amateur Astrophotographer (27 Aug 2021) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QcJaD9klDc

I had to look a bit, but eventually found a description of the camera and exposure for that original image of “Pillars of Creation” at https://hubblesite.org/mission-and-telescope/mission-timeline#h4-deab74a9-f038-4a74-9313-425d13e71747 with more detail at https://hubblesite.org/contents/news-releases/1995/news-1995-44.html then some images at https://hubblesite.org/contents/media/images/1995/44/351-Image.html?news=true

Like usual, Hubble media people dominate sharing on their site, so all they have are lossy JPEG images and the best are 1518 x 1497. ( Maybe that is why NASA media types released it April Fools Day 1995. And why they show a snooty disdain for the “public” who don’t know anything, so only need lossy images. And hide the “real” data behind many layers of jargon and sloppy documentation, only for paid scientists or insiders. Sorry, my patience for them is a little thin this morning.)

The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) has a brief history at https://www.stsci.edu/hst/instrumentation/legacy/wfpc2 and I gave up trying to find the raw data at https://archive.stsci.edu/virtual-observatory#section-80254617-2136-4c4e-9769-75cf28857716 What a horrible mess.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Field_and_Planetary_Camera_2 says that WFPC2 had four 800×800 CCD sensors. The camera was probably designed and built back in the early 1990’s. And you are comparing to your camera, with its pixels, sensitivity, frame rate, stacking and registration to a raw 30 hour exposure back then? It is interesting they mention ” non-scientific JPEG files” and then (real) “astronomers receive a raw scientific image package”. Nothing much has changed.

WFPC2 was replaced by WFPC3 which has 2048×4096 UV, 2048×4096 visible, and 1024×1024 IR.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Field_and_Planetary_Camera_2#/media/File:Eagle_nebula_pillars.jpg explains that the original Pillars was a composite of 32 images from those four CCDs with filters and false coloring. So it is not so much an image for human eyeballs (I call those “eye candy”), but the raw data from the original sensors – which could be reprocessed, compared and combined withe newer images and different sensors.

“pillars of Creation” OR “Messier 16” OR “Eagle Nebula” OR “NGC 6611” OR “star queen nebula” OR (“M16” “nebula”) has about 1.21 Million entry points (Google, 26 Oct 2021) and many people who have gathered data, or who have an abiding interest.

But those people and groups are like you – all sharing pretty pictures, And not really sharing, combining, calibrating, comparing, collaborating, calculating, modeling, simulating “real science” or technology or shared sensor data. Someone commented that you are not an amateur. But, until you actually begin to combine your raw and documented sensor data streams with others – your are not doing science. My impression from checking the Internet for some of those “scientists” who mention NGC 6611 (or its many aliases and codes) is they are just dabbling. Picking pretty pictures to share. If anyone does good work, but only shares “eye candy” still or video images, no real progress is made. It stays at the level of individuals doing their best efforts, and never accumulating knowledge for everyone.

Maybe I am tired this morning, so I felt you were pushing to make this video hip and enthusiastic. But if it is intended to encourage collaboration, comparing, calibration, and “science”, it falls a little flat. I am glad you did this. But who can afford a Hubble camera in space, no matter how old. Or the kinds of cameras, computers, software and massive amount of time you are expending?

If you can think of a better way, I am constantly looking.

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.


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