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Hubble's Hidden Treasures

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Last March, the operators of the Hubble Space Telescope launched a competition, inviting amateur astronomers to dig into hundreds of thousands of images of outer space, helping discover hidden treasures and bring them to light. Yesterday, NASA and the European Space Agency announced the winners in both categories: image processing, where entrants composed their own images based on Hubble data, and image search, where entrants simply uncovered amazing images not previously released. Collected here are 16 of the winning images. Be sure to visit the Hubble site to see them all. [16 photos]

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First prize winner, image processing category. Josh Lake (USA) submitted a stunning image of NGC 1763, part of the N11 star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. ESA/Hubble had previously published an image of an area just adjacent to this, based on observations by the same team. Josh took a different approach, producing a bold two-colour image which contrasts the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen. The image is not in natural colours -- hydrogen and nitrogen produce almost indistinguishable shades of red light that our eyes would struggle to tell apart -- but Josh's processing separates them out into blue and red, dramatically highlighting the structure of the region. As well as narrowly topping the jury's vote, Josh Lake also won the public vote. (NASA/ESA/Josh Lake)
First prize winner, image processing category. Josh Lake (USA) submitted a stunning image of NGC 1763, part of the N11 star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. ESA/Hubble had previously published an image of an area just adjacent to this, based on observations by the same team. Josh took a different approach, producing a bold two-colour image which contrasts the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen. The image is not in natural colours -- hydrogen and nitrogen produce almost indistinguishable shades of red light that our eyes would struggle to tell apart -- but Josh's processing separates them out into blue and red, dramatically highlighting the structure of the region. As well as narrowly topping the jury's vote, Josh Lake also won the public vote. (NASA/ESA/Josh Lake)
Andre van der Hoeven (Netherlands) came a close second in the jury vote. His image of the spiral galaxy Messier 77 is highly attractive, and is also an impressive piece of image processing, combining a number of datasets from separate instruments into one amazing picture. (NASA/ESA/Andre van der Hoeven) #
Third prize in the image search category, goes to this image of a molecular cloud found by Luca Limatola, near IRAS 14568-6304. (NASA/ESA/Luca Limatola) #
Sixth prize (one of two, tied for sixth) in image search, is this image of galaxy NGC 4217, found by Ralf Schoofs. (NASA/ESA/Ralf Schoofs) #
Taking fourth prize in image processing, Renaud Houdinet (France) submitted a hugely ambitious mosaic of Hubble images. Chamaeleon I is a large nebula near the south celestial pole, and it does not fit into a single Hubble image. Renaud painstakingly tiled the exposures together. Despite the small gaps between the Hubble images, the jury was impressed by the technical achievement of putting together this ambitious vista. Houdinet said "Sometimes, things don't turn out as they ought... It started as something promising, unfortunately it soon turned out there were quite a few 'gaps' between tiles that maybe weren't so obvious looking at the footprint... It was a learning experience though!" (NASA/ESA/Renaud Houdinet) #
Ninth prize in image processing was awarded to Nick Rose for his image of Lensing Cluster Abell 68. Gravity of the galaxies in the foreground is distorting light coming from further away, leading to the 'smearing' and twisting appearance of distant galaxies. (NASA/ESA/Nick Rose) #
Eighth prize for image search went to Matej Novak, who uncovered this image of NGC 6153, a planetary nebula in Scorpius. (NASA/ESA/Matej Novak) #
Robert Gendler (USA) is a well known figure in the amateur image processing world. His version of Hubble's image of NGC 3190 is the default desktop image on new Apple computers. Robert submitted a number of excellent images into the competition. This image of galaxy M96 was the jury's favorite. (NASA/ESA/Robert Gendler) #
Fourth prize in image search, to Kathlyn Smith, for this portion of NGC 1579, a reflection nebula in the constellation of Perseus. (NAS/ESA/Kathlyn Smith) #
Sixth prize (one of two, tied for sixth), in image search was awarded to Kathy van Pelt, for this image of NGC 4490. (NASA/ESA/Kathy van Pelt) #
Taking third prize for image processing was Judy Schmidt (USA), who entered this picture of XZ Tauri, a newborn star spraying out gas into its surroundings and lighting up a nearby cloud of dust. This was a challenging dataset to process, as Hubble only captured two colors in this area. Nevertheless, the end result is an attractive image, and an unusual object that we would never have found without her help. (NASA/ESA/Judy Schmidt) #
Sixth prize for image processing was awarded to Claude Cornen, for this view of supernova remnant 0519-69, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. (NASA/ESA/Claude Cornen) #
Tenth prize, for image processing, went to Nikolaus Sulzenauer, for this image of dwarf galaxy IC 10. (NASA/ESA/Nikolaus Sulzenauer) #
First prize, for basic image search, went to Brian Campbell, for uncovering this image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 6300. (NASA/ESA/Brian Campbell) #
Eighth prize, in image processing was awarded to Flickr user kyokugaisha1, for this view of planetary nebula NGC 1501. (NASA/ESA/Flickr user kyokugaisha1) #
Fifth prize, in image search went to Adam Kill, for this cluster of distant galaxies, near lensing galaxy B 1608+656. (NASA/ESA/Adam Kill) #

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