ESO Announces Winners in Astrophotography Contest

Posted by David Ozanich — 25 Jan 2011

Orion.jpg

An astrophotography competition (called "Hidden Treasures") hosted by the European Southern Observatory invited amateur astronomers to find "cosmo imagery" worthy of public consumption by searching their vast databases of raw telescope images and turning them into "space photos." The Picture Show blog explains how it's done:

Data produced by telescopes are gray-scale images obtained through colored filters. Processing the images requires the elimination of "unwanted signatures of the instrument" or extraneous data in the image that actually isn't in the sky -- it comes from either electricity or the telescope itself. Images are then combined to increase detail or range of view, and finally the images are "colorized" consistently with the filter that used when the image was taken.


Easy, right?

"We were completely taken aback both by the quantity and the quality of the images that were submitted," said Lars Lindberg Christensen, Head of ESO's education and Public Outreach Department. "This was not a challenge for the faint-hearted, requiring both an advanced knowledge of data processing and an artistic eye. We are thrilled to have discovered so many talented people."

Meanwhile, USA Today has 7th place winner Igor Chekalin's photo of the Orion Nebula, 1,300 light years away. Below, "a pan across a new image of the Orion Nebula from the Wide Field Imager camera at the La Silla Observatory."

But why just the 7th place winner? Well, old Igor Chekalin also nabbed the first and second place spots as well. His winning photo, seen below, is of the M78 nebular complex in Orion. How did the ESO pick their winner?

The jury evaluated the entries based on the quality of the data processing, the originality of the image and the overall aesthetic feel. As several of the highest ranked images were submitted by the same people, the jury decided to make awards to the ten most talented participants, so as to give more people the opportunity to win a prize and reward their hard work and talent.

Isn't that nice of them? Mr. Chekalin won a trip to the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile. Find out much, much more at the ESO's website. You can see most of the submitted images on their Facebook page.

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