I Photoshop, Therefore I Science

Don’t you love how English can do that? To science: verb, transitive. I science, you science, he/she/it sciences. To create information from data.

Oh, the verb, “to photoshop?” We all know what that means. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

Ted Stryk at the Planetary Society blog writes about his successful attempts to photoshop “old” data collected by Voyager 2 in 1986 to see ‘scapes on the night side of several moons of Uranus that have never been seen before.

Several years ago, Phil Stooke of the University of Western Ontario presented a paper showing that the regions beyond the day/night boundary could be faintly seen on the Uranus-facing hemisphere of the moon Ariel,… thanks to light reflected off the planet. I reprocessed Voyager’s best view of Ariel, a 2×2 mosaic of frames taken at a resolution of roughly 2.4 kilometers per pixel near closest approach.

Very neat. Several of these “enhanced” views are shown at the linked site.

The implications are rather intimidating – as you can see from the images, there’s plenty to be seen (for the first time!). It’s been said that NASA has several warehouses full of good ol’ fashioned 9-track tapes, full of data, just waiting to be transferred to cds uh, DVDs Hi-Def DVDs. That’s probably no longer true, but the fact that there are tonnes of data (data are measured in tonnes? Oh yes!) that have yet to be examined in any way whatsoever, and more that have not been looked at except once, using technologies that are long superseded. Better, these data are quite publicly available (it used to be that, for any space mission, the Principal Investigator had sole possession of the data until he published, and PIs had a reputation for being very possessive. Several organizations, like APL, have instituted a policy to release data almost immediately, and several others are moving to adopt that practice). That’s good because, as Commander Riker would say, there are giga-quads more data coming in every day.

Letting more eyeballs look at it ASAP can only help find what’s there. And yes, this means that you too can be a scientist doing cutting edge research. In ten years, your generic high-school age sons and daughters probably will probably be doing just that.

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