Interact with NOIRLab’s Astronomical Images with New App
3 March 2021
The astronomical image archive from NSF’s NOIRLab has become interactive thanks to a new web application developed to explore the sky. Harnessing the power of the Aladin Interactive Sky Atlas, the app allows users to learn more about the images in a visual way, such as zooming out from an image to see the object’s location in space, zooming in to investigate the details of an image, selecting views of an object taken by different telescopes, or applying layers to view the subject in different wavelengths of light.
This new interactive app can be found on the bottom-right side of each image’s webpage, where other information about the image (such as colors, filters, and coordinates) is provided. The NOIRLab image is overlaid on top of images from astronomical surveys, allowing the user to explore the celestial context of the astronomical object featured in the image.
The Aladin Interactive Sky Atlas comes in two formats: Aladin Desktop is a standalone Java application, while Aladin Lite runs in a web browser, is geared toward simple visualization of a region of the sky, and is easy to embed into any web page.
The new app, developed by NOIRLab under the leadership of image specialist Mahdi Zamani, uses the powerful Aladin Lite version directly in the website, and can be expanded to full-page for a more immersive experience. In addition to NOIRLab’s website, Aladin Lite is integrated in several astronomical websites, for both professional and outreach uses, such as the ESA/Hubble website.
The Aladin Interactive Sky Atlas is a project of the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS — Strasbourg astronomical Data Centre) in France. The CDS is dedicated to the collection and worldwide distribution of astronomical data and related information. It hosts the SIMBAD astronomical database, which provides information on astronomical objects that have been studied and reported on in scientific articles, and VizieR, which provides a library of published astronomical catalogs. The CDS databases are regularly upgraded, through critical evaluations and comparisons, and the results are distributed to astronomers worldwide, who use these vast resources to conduct scientific research.
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