Cosmos versus Canvas: Jayanne English (University of Manitoba)

Visualization in the International Year of Astronomy 2009

From Cosmos to Canvas: Tensions between Art and Science in Astronomy Images.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 would like to promote content produced by astronomers - professional and amateurs. Bold colour images from telescopes act as extraordinary ambassadors for astronomers because they pique the public's curiosity. Unfortunately attempts by scientists to represent their discoveries can tend to all but drown out the conventions of visual literacy. This can dilute the impact of an image. The material in this section is to help you render your astronomy images in the most effective manner possible. The videos will help you learn how to make outstanding, striking electronic images to support your science stories in accurate, compelling ways.

How to Make Astronomy Images
  1. Calibrate your monitor. (Text document.)

  2. Make your images.

    Cosmos vs Canvas - playlist of videos on YouTube - is an imaging workshop in 5 parts on how to make compelling astronomy images using astronomy data in any wavelength regime. Emphasis is put on keeping the scientific content in an image while simultaneously constructing it to appeal to the public using concepts and techniques from visual art. Part 1 covers the motivations, definitions of public outreach images, composition and colour "theory". Parts 2-4 show the workshop in action, with more tips and tricks and how-to's. Part 5 shows the results of the workshop participants, including a critique of their images. This movie was made by the Astronomy group at the University of Manitoba, Canada, and is a contribution to the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

  3. Examples of Images Made During Workshops
    Most of these are made from small "thumbnail" black and white images so that they could be made quickly.
Original Astronomical Data:
Software Requirements for Creating Colour Images:
  • An image processing package for making black and white versions of your data.
    The best is KVIS in the Karma suite, but DS9 in the IRAF suite can also be used. If you do not want to learn either of these astronomy packages, then you can use FITS Liberator, a plug-in for PhotoShop. In both FITS files are input. Particularly fine adjustments can be made in Karma and ppm or postscript outputs can be loaded into image manipulation packages (listed in next item).

  • An image manipulation package.
    If you do not have an image manipulation package on your computer e.g. PhotoShop), the Gnu Image Manipulation Package - GIMP - is free, easy to install, and works on Linux, Microsoft, and Apple platforms. (But yes you can use PhotoShop if you have it. You may like to try out an evaluation version from the adobe website.)

Selected Reference Articles
  • Selected Articles:

  • Astronomy Image Websites

    Contact Information

    Dr. Jayanne English
    Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Manitoba
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Canada R3T 2N2

    Office: (204)-474-7105
    Physics & Astronomy Office: (204)-474-9817



    Last modified: Tue Apr 14 01:02:38 EST 2009