What Lurks Behind the Light?

Tuesday, March 18 2008 @ 08:10 am EDT

Contributed by: bobmoody

When the familiar becomes the unfamiliar, it can either be a little unnerving, or, it can make us marvel as if we're seeing things for the very first time. That's how I felt when the image of the Sombrero Galaxy (M-104) began coming up on my screen from the March 8th Astronomy Picture of the Day.

This remarkable image shows details in the spiral arms of the Sombrero well into the central region. Just look and see how the spiral arms wind all the way in. This image is possible through a new image processing technique called, High Dynamic Range Wavelet Transform algorithm (HDRWT) and you can read more about the process, and see many other impressive images by clicking on this link. And, Just to see how much different this image is from the "regular" or "normal" image of M-104 we're all familiar with, just click here

And it keeps getting better.....the APOD image for March 22nd shows the otherwise familiar Cat's Eye Nebula located in the northern polar constellation Draco in greater detail than the original 1994 image of the same. Otherwise known by its New General Catalog number NGC-6543, the Cat's Eye Nebula is a planetary nebula, possibly resembling what our own star Sol may look like in 5 billion years or so, give or take a few hundred million years. (LOL)

In 1999, an APOD image from September 16th, is a neat little shot that combines TWO images taken 3 years apart that clearly show the nebula e x p a n d i n g !! The images shift between 1994 and 1997, and if you watch closely, you can actually SEE the nebula expanding and contracting. But in this newest image, notice the greater detail in the "knots" of material around the thicker portions of the nebula, as well as in the whispy streaks, too. It would be cool to once again create a two or even three image "blinking" effect to see more continued expansion of the material in the Cat's Eye.

Undoubtedly, this new way of getting more information from already established and well-known astronomical objects by using High Dynamic Range Wavelet Transform algorithms (HDRWT) will soon become a preferred way of processing images, possibly for some of today's up-and-coming crop of new astronomers. What I wouldn't give to be one of them! Perhaps just as importantly, though, what new technologies will be developed and presented on the APOD website next?

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