I just read today about a contest sponsored by Hubble Space Telescope to search the HST archives for pretty pictures, process them, and share with the world. I love this idea. Hubble has taken thousands of images which have been scientifically analyzed and looked at but have probably never been looked at by anyone. Sometimes, like in the case here, the images were not even really part of the science, just side product of acquiring the actual scientific data. So much of the universe is sitting inside the Hubble archives waiting to be discovered; this is an excellent way to encourage everyone to go take a peek.

Check it out here:

When the contest was announced I immediately thought of the picture below of Comet Hyakutake that we took 16 years ago (sigh). We needed to find the nucleus to perform spectroscopy, so we had to take a picture, but, boy-oh-boy, what a pictures. With no processing at all (and a good computer screen) you can see what is buried in there. Jets that look like garden sprinklers. Maybe chunks of the nucleus down the narrow ion tail. Who knows?

Someone should really do a good job and process those data the way they deserve to be processed. Really. Someone should. Maybe you?

Here's how. Go to the Hubble archive:


Find the box called "proposal ID" and enter 6736. You can look at all of the data you want, but the three images labeled "WF3" for aperature are the good ones, I think. Download the data.

The data come in "FITS" format, familiar to astronomers. Space.com recommends "FITS Liberator" to important it.

Hyakutake, you might remember, was one of the most spectacular comets of the last couple of decades. What made it extra special was that it came particularly close to the earth. These HST images -- which have never really been seen anywhere -- are probably some of the best up-close comet images taken by anything other than a spacecraft flying by one. Someone take a look. Might be fun. And show me the results.
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