The Hubble Heritage Project
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a research tool dedicated to scientific studies of nature. Enroute to illuminating the forces shaping our cosmos, HST has accumulated a cosmic zoo. The Hubble Heritage Project sees this instrument also as a tool for extending human vision, one that is capable of building a bridge between the endeavors of scientists and the public. By emphasizing compelling HST images distilled from scientific data, we hope to pique curiosity about our astrophysical understanding of the universe we all inhabit.
The fact that not all members of the Hubble Heritage Project team have backgrounds in astronomy or are professional astrophysicists explains our atypical approach to constructing the pictures you'll find at our website. Rather than being one individual's expression, the images and website are visions produced by collaboration. Our process is similar to that of writing a scientific paper, or doing an experiment, with several contributors. In other words, as well as doing specified tasks, each member participates in directing the image composition, color selection, and other aspects. The people behind the Hubble Heritage Team signature have been Keith Noll Howard Bond, Carol Christian, Lisa Frattare, Forrest Hamilton, and Zolt Levay. Participation from former team members and support from student interns has aided in the overall success of our project.
Additionally, our astronomical background influences which image processing techniques we employ and our aesthetic decisions. For example, astronomical detectors are much more sensitive than the human eye. So we've decided that our final images should not be restricted to the scope of the human visual perception, either in brightness or in spectral range. In most cases, color assignments and brightness contrasts which emphasize subtle structures, as well as physical processes which generate delicate light effects, will take precedence over attaining, say, natural color.
The original source material for the Hubble Heritage Project images is HST data obtained in 2 ways. Primarily we mine the rich HST public archive of exposures that has been accumulating for a decade. Since HST is a research instrument, many of the most visually interesting objects, however, were never selected for study and therefore are missing from this archive. Additionally the favorites that have been scientific targets often lack HST exposures across a color range or the telescope's field of view only covers a small, unrecognizable portion of the form. Fortunately the Hubble Heritage Project has been granted a small amount of observing time. It is enough to satisfy the dual purpose of obtaining scientifically useful data and generating visually intriguing images of a few objects. A few astronomers have been guest collaborators, helping us acquire some data. As well visitors to this website have been invited to help select a target.
Although each month we plan to exhibit, at this website gallery, one additional picture distilled from HST exposures, we invite you to visit us more often than the first Thursday of every month. The supplemental stories and information will be updated continually. Also, raw data of the favorite targets will be posted as soon as the observations occur and other activities will be announced as those events draw near.
The home of the Hubble Heritage Project is Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore MD, which is run by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy for NASA. The Hubble Heritage Team wishes to thank the many members of the STScI Office of Public Outreach News and Online Outreach Teams, and the STScI AVL lab. A special thanks goes to our many interns, program coordinators and other contributors.