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Zolt Levay

Zolt Levay

Zolt Levay

I was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, of Hungarian parents, came to the U.S. at the age of four, and grew up near Baltimore, Maryland. I became interested in astronomy in high school, being particularly fascinated by the magnificent photographs made with the world's great telescopes. Trying to make photos with my own home-built telescope helped fuel an avid interest in all things technical and a growing passion for photography.

I pursued astronomy at Indiana University in Bloomington, studies that also included heavy doses of math, physics, and computer science. I left college in 1975 with a degree in Astrophysics for graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University (Warner and Swasey Observatory) in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1978 I joined Computer Sciences Corporation at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where I helped support a variety of space science missions, culminating with the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite.

I arrived at the newly-established Space Telescope Science Institute in 1983, still employed by CSC, to help design and implement software for astronomers to view and analyze data obtained by the not-yet-launched Hubble Space Telescope. The next several years were a roller-coaster ride of anticipation, dissappointment, and triumph, watching launch delays, the Challenger accident, deployment of the telescope, realization of serious problems, and finally the successful servicing of HST in 1993. Each subsequent servicing mission has greatly improved the capabilities of the telescope, and allowed it to produce better and more interesting images.

In 1993 I began to work in the Office of Public Outreach at STScI, now employed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). I started this phase of my career just when the first remarkable data emerged from the repaired telescope, and found myself helping to produce and distribute the first successful images. Ever since, I have been privileged to work with scientists and technical professionals here at STScI and throughout the world to assemble the observations into photos, illustrations, video and other products that we distribute to the public via the internet, news media, and educators.

I am a member of the Hubble Heritage Team, which strives to showcase the finest images made by the Hubble Space Telescope.  I have been fortunate to assemble and help publicize some of the most remarkable HST images, including the Orion Nebula, Whirlpool Galaxy, Helix Nebula, Hubble Deep Fields, Andromeda Galaxy Halo, and many others.   Translating data intended for scientific analysis into photographs meaningful to many viewer turns out to be an interesting challenge.  I have tried to apply lessons learned from the work of the greatest photographers to tease out as much beauty as possible from the wealth of information hiding in the exquisite data.

Zolt Levay

Levay at Work

When I'm not busy with Hubble photos and news, I enjoy my family and trying to make photographs with my earth-bound camera while traveling, hiking, camping, and canoeing, as well as occasionally getting my hands dirty gardening, woodworking and keeping the house from falling apart.


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