Bringing light, shadow to the stars

2009-10-30T00:00:00Z Bringing light, shadow to the starsJACKIE BORCHARDT Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
October 30, 2009 12:00 am  • 

The picture on the computer screen looked like someone forgot to take the lens cap off - black with a few specks of white.

After a few clicks with the mouse, the black turned to gray and small white blobs appeared. A few more clicks and the screen had transformed from nothingness to a color picture of a nebula surrounded by stars, thousands of light years away from earth.

The enhanced picture was created at Casper Planetarium using NASA software and tools, as part of the "Capture the Colorful Cosmos" program. The program celebrates the International Year of Astronomy and is funded by a $1,000 grant from the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The software enables amateur astronomers to create pictures similar to those of the Hubble Space Telescope. Students in the astronomy class at Kelly Walsh High School were the first to try it.

Senior Kristen Hite chose the moon. She ordered pictures of the celestial body from NASA microbservatory robotic telescopes in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Arizona. The best of the three images is sent. Sometimes the weather prevents getting a good result.

Using the software, Hite played with color filters to isolate and enhance light in some areas. She repeated that step until satisfied with the final result: an eerie, blood-red moon.

"I was surprised there was so much to just one picture," Hite said. "It takes a lot of time to do this."

The students struggled with the technology, said Michelle Wistisen, director of the Casper Planetarium. What she expected to be a one- to two-day project took weeks. Even though the activity only scratched the surface of what can be done with images, Wistisen hoped the students learned more by doing the manipulations instead of looking at them in class.

The students' images are on display at the planetarium. Younger students from the Boys and Girls Club of Natrona County will play with the software next. In a few weeks, patrons will be able to create and print their own pictures from space on a high quality printer. The whole process takes less time than a one-hour photo service.

Hite and senior Mariah Dieriex created a three-minute program about the process, which will be shown during public events at the planetarium. In addition to the tools used to make the images, Hite and Dieriex learned production software to piece together the presentation - skills that they said could be applied to fields besides astronomy.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Wyoming has a love-hate relationship with feds

Wyoming has a love-hate relationship with feds

35 minutes agoLoading…

Director of WIA plans retirement

13 hours agoLoading…

UW hires dean for engineering college

14 hours agoLoading…
Balow seeks to bring strength and stability

Balow seeks to bring strength and stability

14 hours agoLoading…
Bison hunt in Jackson Hole sets record

Bison hunt in Jackson Hole sets record

20 hours agoLoading…

Obama methane plan draws little reaction in Wyoming

22 hours agoLoading…

Committee hears conflicting testimony over 'right to try'

January 24, 2015 12:20 pmLoading…
UW surveys show high student satisfaction

UW surveys show high student satisfaction

January 24, 2015 11:00 amLoading…

Senate committee softens language in study of federal lands

January 23, 2015 7:00 pmLoading…

Bill for minimum wage increase fails

January 23, 2015 3:02 pmLoading…
Wyoming police department outfits officers with body cams

Wyoming police department outfits officers with body cams

January 23, 2015 12:56 pmLoading…
House passes judicial age bill

House passes judicial age bill

January 23, 2015 10:07 amLoading…
Casper appeals smoking decision to Wyoming Supreme Court

Casper appeals smoking decision to Wyoming Supreme Court

January 23, 2015 9:32 amLoading…
Bill to allow unregulated food advances

Bill to allow unregulated food advances

January 23, 2015 8:48 amLoading…
Wyoming Lottery sees biggest winner at $25,000

Wyoming Lottery sees biggest winner at $25,000

January 23, 2015 8:10 amLoading…

State and area deaths

January 23, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
Grizzly bear-human conflicts rise in Wyoming in 2014

Grizzly bear-human conflicts rise in Wyoming in 2014

January 22, 2015 4:56 pmLoading…

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses

KLJ