Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Top 5 Most Memorable Sights in Astronomy & Space Exploration

Hubble Eagle Nebula (M16) Pillars of Creation. Image Source: NASA (Public Domain); Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University); A Star is Born; Release Date: April 1, 1995

Top 5 Most Memorable Sights in Astronomy & Space Exploration

So many images, so many memories, but which stand out as the greatest sights in the history of astronomy and space exploration? Have you ever just looked up at a clear night’s sky and simply wondered? Stars, planets, nebulae and even a galaxy or two lay within your unaided eyesight. What object do you first remember seeing? Was it Venus rising in the morning? Jupiter shining brightly at night? The magnificent Pleiades? A faint fuzzy spot in Orion’s Belt (M42 – The Great Nebula) or Andromeda’s chains (M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy)? Or how about the Big Dipper, the North Star, the Summer Triangle or Orion itself? Maybe it was the red of Mars or its counterpart Antares?

Do you still remember that very special feeling you had the first time something totally amazing in space? Instead of your own eyes, you might have been enthralled by a picture. After all, the eyes can only see a single instant of photons, while photographs can accumulate them over time, yielding much more impressive images, filled with color and even a sense of dimension. Moreso, once we unleashed our technology into space itself, our probes produced impossibly beautiful results. Remember Voyager’s images of Saturn’s rings or Io erupting? Where were you when you first saw those likenesses?

In the spring of 2009, AstronomyTop100.com accepted 26 for the greatest sights in astronomy and space exploration. Like those listed above, some of these images appear every night with no additional technology while others required everything from long exposure photographic plates to advanced aeronautic and integrated circuit technology.

In the summer of 2009, using such Web 2.0 tools as Twitter and LinkedIn, AstronomyTop100.com polled professionals and interested amateurs from all across the world to vote for their favorite images in astronomy and space exploration. AstronomyTop100.com is an official IYA2009 project designed to increase interest in the best of astronomy and space exploration among all age groups. Over the course of the next several months, we will discover the top 100 greatest images and imaginations in astronomy and space exploration. Still don’t get it? Try picturing what happens when you mix Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Fox’s American Idol. That’s AstronomyTop100.com!

We now proudly unveil the top five (in reverse order based on weighted votes) greatest sights in Astronomy and Space Exploration:

#5 Hubble Pillars of Creation in Eagle Nebula
#4 Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
#3 Saturn’s Rings (Voyager)
#2 Earthrise (Apollo 8)
#1 Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Each of these has a great story behind them. That all these images save one (M31) reflect the age of mass media shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. Perhaps we’ve forgotten our youthful astonishment at discovering the Big Dipper, Orion, the Pleiades and all other naked eye objects to place them anywhere beyond the familiar. Not only does this apply us individually, but metaphorically to us as a civilization. In the end, the experience, accentuated by the novelty, is often greater when it’s shared by more people, and television and the internet certainly encourages such broad sharing. Still, one can’t help but wonder if the Hubble Ultra Deep Field has a face only a mother could love (assuming she was well versed in astrophysics).

The greatest sights in astronomy and space exploration represent only one of eight categories in our quest to identify the top 100 greatest images and imaginations in astronomy and space exploration. How do these five events compare to the top five in the other seven categories? Would you like to see the complete list of the Top 40 greatest images and imaginations in astronomy and space exploration? Just go to this site: http://astronomytop100.com/Top_40.html to discover them all.

Which of these top 40 will become the top 10? You can help us by voting your opinion at our surveymonkey poll located here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=cCBjXb3VpviPP43wXczkMA_3d_3d

Have fun!

Each week from now until December 4, 2009, followers of AstronomyTop100.com on http://www.twitter.com/astronomytop100 will get the first opportunity to answer a new survey. Next, members of the LinkedIn AstronomyTop100 Group will be invited to answer. Finally, members of some relevant LinkedIn groups will also be invited to complete the survey. All surveys will be conducted through surveymonkey.com.

If you’re interested in viewing all the nominations and voting in the Round One surveys, visit AstronomyTop100.com to see all the best of the Top 100 Greatest Images and Imaginations in Astronomy and Space Exploration. If you’d like to take a survey, go to the relevant category page on AstronomyTop100.com.

Just interested in keeping tabs on everything about AstronomyTop100.com and astronomy in general? Then follow it on Twitter (@AstronomyTop100).

Explore the unexplored. Discover the undiscovered. Know the unknown. AstronomyTop100.com

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