Zoomable Universe
August 15, 2009 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Amazing zoomable images of the Extended Groth Strip and Orion Nebula.
posted by paradoxflow (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Meh, post it again when they have Streetview.
posted by nowonmai at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

By which I mean that Hubble Ultra Deep Field images are the most awe-inspiring thing around and these versions are indeed amazing.
posted by nowonmai at 2:08 PM on August 15, 2009

Oh, I can't be the only person to have misread this as deep fried onion... Well, off to make some coffee while the images load.
posted by moonshine at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

moonshine's misread makes me wish I owned a restaurant just so I could put "Hubble Deep Fried Onion Nebula" on the menu.
posted by hippybear at 2:32 PM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

And hippybear's comment makes me wish I was in a band called "Hubble Deep Fried Onion Nebula."
posted by longsleeves at 2:37 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

longsleeves: you can be! I can play piano and bass and rhythm guitar... what can you play? we can collaborate across the internet! I think we'll need a couple more people to really pull it off in the style demanded by that excellent band name.

I can use the profits from the music to open a restaurant, and we'll ALL be happy!
posted by hippybear at 2:44 PM on August 15, 2009

I'm so alone.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:44 PM on August 15, 2009

"...and yourself, an insignificant dot on an insignificant dot, with a sign pointing to it saying "You Are Here."
posted by hippybear at 3:00 PM on August 15, 2009

That's not the Hubble UDF -- or the HDF North or South. The ACS, the primary camera used for the UDF, has a 4096x4095 field (actually, 2x 2048x4096 sensors). The UDF is square, not a long rectangle.

The aspect ratio of that image marks it as one of the many images from The Sloan Digital Sky Survey. SDSS has a very clever imaging system. They have thirty 2048x2408 images, arranged as five 12288x2048 line arrays, each with a filter. This is fitted to a wide angle, fixed telescope. They open the door, turn it on, and let the rotation of the earth scan the CCDs on the sky. The result are those long strip images -- 12288 pixels wide by many, many pixels long, in five wavelengths -- the SDSS generates about 200GB of data every night.

And, since it is a survey, all the data is available online. The biggest problem was simply getting all the that data in a useful format -- 200GB a night of raw data made it a very non-trivial problem. Help came from another field, high energy physics. HEP colliders generate a huge amount of data. So, Fermilab worked very closely with SDSS to help build the data pipelines needed to get this data off the scope and into the hands of researchers. The gang at Fermi already had with with that order-of-magnitude data rate, the hard part was doing the reductions fast enough to be useful.
posted by eriko at 3:00 PM on August 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

Some context.
posted by longsleeves at 3:01 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

that made my mouth hang open...really really really cool!!!!!
posted by supermedusa at 3:06 PM on August 15, 2009

I found a cluster of galaxies but it won't let me keep going on to the individual solar systems within them. Now I'm kind of sad.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:11 PM on August 15, 2009

I am teased! My Universe is more than five clicks deep! Still, it is quite beautiful.

Ah well, I just have to admire from afar, or just maybe I'll just admire the deep fried onion universe the waitress is about to bring. Thanks for the side order idea, moonshine!
posted by chambers at 3:14 PM on August 15, 2009

It's still too fat for a Sloan stripe, and it doesn't feel right to me for Sloan data either - its too sharp, the stars don't look like those I usually see in SDSS and it's just plain weird for someone to confuse the two. It looks much more like something from Hubble, but it isn't recognisable to me as the UDF either.
posted by edd at 3:38 PM on August 15, 2009

When I was a geeky 12 year old, I was a member of the local astronomical society, and the astronomy club at my school, which happened to have a rather nice observatory. I spent many an evening taking photos of the stars.

Just recently, like, in the last month or so, I've found myself suddenly interested in astronomy again, after all these years. It must be the international year of astronomy getting to me, or the anniversary of the moon landing.

So, again I've been out there with my tripod and SLR (and, these days, some fancy software instead of the old darkroom) trying to take pretty photos of the stars. I was even pondering dusting off my old telescope and getting it working again.

Then I see photos like this, and I think, "Why bother?".

posted by Jimbob at 3:41 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's the Extended Groth Strip - it's Hubble as I thought (not Sloan) but not the UDF.
posted by edd at 3:43 PM on August 15, 2009

Indeed, as eriko explained (and, on preview, edd refined), this is not either of the Hubble deep field images. The actual UDF can be seen here (huge 60 MB 6200x6200 pixel image!), and note well their warning about it:

"These images should be downloaded, not viewed with a browser. Even though the file sizes may be small, the number of pixels these images contain can be problematic for a browser. The image may not appear, it may cause your Web browser to lock up, or it may crash your computer."

We can look forward to a new deep field image once Hubble's new instruments are ready to go (within a month) and they start working down the science priority list defined in the Cycle 17 program (PDF). They were supposed to start phasing in that actual science work once the SMOV (commissioning) work started to reach completion, which I believe basically means right now. A big press release / briefing is expected right around Labor Day.
posted by intermod at 3:51 PM on August 15, 2009

Dang, missed the "huge" link. Go to the warning page and get images from there.
posted by intermod at 3:53 PM on August 15, 2009

Holy crap, that's awesome.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:54 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought the axis ratio of that first image looked familiar... It's not the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, and it's not from SDSS either.

It's actually cropped out of the Hubble Space Telescope image mosaic of the Extended Groth Strip. This is one of the largest color images Hubble has ever produced; this is the Hubblesite page about the image with more context.

The region of sky covered has more than 100 times the area of the Ultra Deep Field, but the images are merely ordinarily deep rather than Ultra. We obtained this data to study how galaxies have grown and changed over the last 9 billion years or so - looking back most of the way to the Big Bang - in concert with deep imaging at pretty much every other wavelength possible. Each type of image helps fill in another piece of the puzzle of how galaxies evolve: ultraviolet light shows us where stars are being born, infrared light reveals old stars, super-massive black holes emit X-rays when they are swallowing material, etc. - while Hubble shows us the shapes of all these galaxies, which are totally blurred out from the ground.

We've also spent about 30 nights at the Keck Telescopes in Hawai'i - some of the largest optical telescopes in the world - performing detailed breakdowns of the light coming from more than 20,000 different faint galaxies in this region of the sky over the last 5 years as part of the DEEP2 Galaxy Redshift Survey. Amongst other things, the resulting measurements of the spectrum of light from each galaxy tells us its redshift (by what factor light coming from it has been stretched out from the Doppler Effect, basically), which allows us to estimate its distance and hence how far back in time we are looking when we view it.

StreetView isn't yet available, but this same image is viewable in Google Sky. It's the area that appears lighter than the surrounding sky (due to differences in the intensity scaling of Hubble and Sloan Digital Sky Survey images).

For more on AEGIS, or if you want to play with our pan-chromatic images in Google Earth, check out the team's web page.

If you can recognize an image from its axis ratio, I guess you've probably spent too much time staring at it...
posted by janewman at 3:56 PM on August 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

During the last Hubble servicing mission (STS-125), they stuck a piece of the EGS (not the same strip linked in the FPP) along the hallway outside the shuttle control rooms for everyone to sign. As the mission went on, people started pasting stickers onto it - the biggest blob in that photo, near the top is the Enterprise, there's an Apollo capsule on the near end, a space shuttle further down the hall, etc. It was also really neat to see all the notes from Hubble engineers and university researchers who'd flown in to help run the mission, and had been coming in for months and months beforehand to work with the shuttle team to coordinate every step of Hubble's capture, repairs, and release.

(Sorry about the terrible photo quality, I was in a hurry so as to not get in the way of people coming in for the next shift.)

Last I heard, the poster was on its way to Kennedy and Goddard for more signatures, and will end up hanging somewhere in the Smithsonian.
posted by casarkos at 4:10 PM on August 15, 2009

To give a sense of scale: the Ultra Deep Field image posted was 6200x6200 pixels; the EGS image mosaic is 14,400 x 84,000 pixels. The outreach people at the Space Telescope Science Institute never considered posting a full-resolution version of the whole field (in fact, even the version in Google Sky is somewhat degraded from the original).

It's too bad, as I think no one is as good at making beautiful versions of astronomical images as the people who work at STScI - so we're left with a choice between distributing a degraded image in Google Sky or one that, except at the deepest zooms, just doesn't look nearly as nice.
posted by janewman at 4:18 PM on August 15, 2009

It's the Extended Groth Strip - it's Hubble as I thought (not Sloan) but not the UDF.

Embarrasingly enough, I'd never heard of the Extended Groth Strip. Yay learning! Knew on first sight it wasn't the UDF.
posted by eriko at 4:21 PM on August 15, 2009

Extended Goth Strip was discontinued at the titty bar when all the other dancers complained about the eyeliner being all used up.
posted by hippybear at 4:36 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Orion link is gorgeous. I was a little sad it's flash (can't be wallpaper). After a bit of digging, I ran across this image which looks to the same.

Great post, btw, and great comments. This sort of thing is why I love MetaFilter.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Every time I look at something like this, I feel really guilty for ever complaining about being petite.
posted by MoreForMad at 5:16 PM on August 15, 2009

My God! It's Full of Stars!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:20 PM on August 15, 2009

I've been interested in this always but I don't have a math mind thus don't really have the mind to capture the information involved in physics and/or astronomy; I've tried, staggered around, flailed and failed. Regardless that, I do love what I am able to pick up, the bits that fall off the table and into my lap, I can and damn sure do marvel at the fine minds who have pulled all of the pieces (that are known thus far) together, I can and do marvel at the beauty shown us by the creations of the brilliant engineers who designed all of this fantastic gear and set it to work.

I just love the idea of looking at an image and knowing that I am looking back through time, that what I see is what happened billions of years in the past -- what a trip!

Day before yesterday I found a link which led to a link etc and etc which eventually led me to Hubble Ultra Deep Field images and I was blown out of my shoes, I found a 18 meg jpg image on Wikipedia which I downloaded and cut a piece from for my desktop. Dazzling. Wandering from here to there on my puter I see that image and it stops me, sets me to thinking and wondering, awestruck.

Lots of bright minds in this thread that already know this about the Ultra Deep Field image but just in case you don't know, this image was taken over 11 days, looking very deeply at a piece of sky that appeared to have little or nothing in it, and a very small piece of sky to boot -- I've read differing accounts on how large, Wikipedia says This is just one-tenth the diameter of the full moon as viewed from Earth, smaller than a 1 mm by 1 mm square of paper held 1 meter away, and equal to roughly one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky.


Great post, and great comments here in this thread.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:28 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

It reminds me of the time I used my first microscope to peer into my first batch of swamp water.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:01 PM on August 15, 2009

It's like Christmas, only everywhere!
posted by humannaire at 6:12 PM on August 15, 2009

Ahh, I apologize for the mistaken attribution. I'm no expert, obviously, but I thought the images spoke for themselves.

Thanks for the additional information everyone.
posted by paradoxflow at 6:40 PM on August 15, 2009

posted by Damn That Television at 6:41 PM on August 15, 2009

I am teased! My Universe is more than five clicks deep.

I'm pretty sure that's a Storm Large song.
posted by rokusan at 7:11 PM on August 15, 2009

Well, I'm awestruck.

From edd's Wiki link, "...a patch of sky roughly the width of a finger stretched at arms length (...) There are at least 50,000 galaxies in its view..."

50,000 galaxies. And how many stars and things in that *tiny* bit of what we can see?
I suppose growing up watching Cosmos has forever put the voice of Carl Sagan in my head whenever I see pictures of this depth and time and magnitude.
"For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night." - from "Cosmos".
I'm sure I'll go on hearing him narrate space for me, and that's really ok.
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:41 PM on August 15, 2009

Looks like one of the admins fixed the name in the FPP.
posted by intermod at 9:58 PM on August 15, 2009

Speaking of the Hubble Deep Field, here's a 3-D simulation.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 PM on August 15, 2009

It's like a safety version of the Total Perspective Vortex.

Still finding it viciously overwhelming though.
posted by lucidium at 11:16 PM on August 15, 2009

Mind is blown. Time for beddie bye.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:42 PM on August 16, 2009

"Full of stars?" Hell. It's full of galaxies.
posted by chairface at 10:42 PM on August 16, 2009

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