With over one million observations since it launch on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been a endless source for insane wonders, unprecedented scenes and humbling experiences. However, many of its most amazing images have never been seen before by anyone—until now. In fact, some images actually show objects that nobody knew existed before.
These are, as the European Space Agency calls them, Hubble's hidden treasures—the unknown secret galaxies and stars that have remained unseen in the Space Telescope's data vaults until the ESA asked the public to dive in on a quest to find them. What people have found is amazing.
According to ESA:
[Of the million observations] only a small proportion are attractive images—and an even smaller number are ever actually seen by anyone outside the small groups of scientists that publish them. But the vast amount of data in the archive means that there are still many hundreds of beautiful images scattered among the valuable, but visually unattractive, scientific data that have never been enjoyed by the public.
Knowing that, ESA opened the vaults to everyone. A few months later, they had 3,000 submissions in their servers, all of them beautiful. "More than a thousand of these images were fully processed," says ESA, "a difficult and time-consuming task."
Incredibly enough, there was no payment for all these image hunting and processing hours done by the public except a few small prizes for the top ten in two categories—basic imaging and image processing. The volunteers did it all out of the love for the quest, a desire to explore and find something that nobody has seen before in this way.
Here are the results:
The winner of the image processing category was Josh Lake, for the star-forming region NGC 1763, followed by Andre van der Hoeven and his image of the spiral galaxy Messier 77. My favorite, however, is this one, found and processed by Judy Schmidt, a web developer from Lakeside, California. It's the star XZ Tauri. According to the European Space Agency, this was the jury's favourite. In fact, thanks to her work, they found "an unusual object that we would never have found without her help."
It's so incredibly beautiful and delicate that it seems unreal:
What a magical place.
Here's Lake's NGC 1763:
And van der Hoeven's Messier 77:
You can see all the winning images at the ESA site.