ME vs. NASA Image Contest: Crab Nebula

#MEvsNASA

Compare Your MicroObservatory Image to NASA's Great Observatory Images

For the past 30 years, NASA has been exploring the mysteries of outer space with images taken from a fleet of telescopes orbiting around the Earth, collectively known as the Great Observatories. With MicroObservatory, you — yes, you! — have the remarkable opportunity to control telescopes, capture images, and explore the same mysteries alongside NASA.

The Challenge

Request and process a MicroObservatory image of the Crab Nebula using the JS9 software.
Then compare your result to a NASA image of the Crab Nebula, taken by one of the Great Observatories:

  • Hubble Space Telescope (ultraviolet and visible light wavelengths)
  • Chandra X-Ray Telescope (x-ray wavelengths)
  • Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared wavelengths)

What To Do: the short version

What To Do: the long version

Who Can Participate?

Anyone can participate! You just need an email address to receive the images that you request through the MicroObservatory robotic telescopes.

If you are 12 or younger, you will need a parent or guardian to submit your photos for you.

Contest Winners

You will need to fill out this form with your processed image and a NASA-processed image for comparison. The Science Education team at the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory will review all of the submissions, and choose a winner in these two categories:


Best Technically-Processed Image
that demonstrates your ability with MicroObservatory

Make sure to check out all the tutorials that are included in the Tools & Training tab in MicroObservatory, they might help you think of new ways to bring out the most in your images!

Most Interesting Comparison
between your image and a NASA-processed image

It's quite all right if your image looks very different from NASA's. The goal of your comparison is to look at one object from two different perspectives. Maybe that's two different wavelengths of light, or maybe that's two different creative lenses.

We will announce the winners of this month’s contest on our facebook page, our twitter page, as well as on the Observing with NASA website.

By entering this contest, you agree to allow Smithsonian to publish the images and information you provide in your submission form. We will credit you for any images we use.

What To Do: the short version

Here are the four basic steps to participate in the contest. But if this isn't informative enough, read What To Do: the long version below.


  • Request an image of the Crab Nebula on the Observing with NASA page.
  • Process your image of the Crab Nebula with the JS9-4L web application
  • Choose a NASA image to compare it to
  • Fill out this form, where you will submit your images to the ME vs. NASA Image Contest.

What To Do: the long version

MicroObservatory is a free and easy web application that allows you to control telescopes from your computer. You can request images through MicroObservatory, and then turn them into informative or artistic photographs using our JS9-4L image-processing software.

STEP A: Request Your Image

  • Go to www.microobservatory.org.
  • Click on the Observing with NASA portal, and then the Control Telescope tab.
  • Find the Crab Nebula, and then click the Observe button below it.
  • Fill out the necessary fields, and then submit your image request.
  • Your image will be emailed to you the next day.

Not sure what to do?

Watch the following tutorial:
How to Request an Image

Find other useful tutorials on the Tools & Training page.

STEP B: Create Your Image

  • Go to www.microobservatory.org.
  • Click on the Observing with NASA portal, and then the Analyze Images tab.
    • ➭ Open the image of the Crab Nebula that you were emailed in Step A.
    • OR!
    • ➮ Choose from the images of the Crab Nebula in the Archived Images dropdown.
  • Use the processing tools included with the JS9-4L processor to enhance your image. Get creative!

Not sure what to do?

Watch the following tutorials:
How to Open an Image
How to Process a FITS Image
How to Create an RGB Image

Find other useful tutorials on the Tools & Training page.

STEP C: Submit Your Image

  • Save your image to your computer as either a PNG or JPEG file.
    • ➭ Choose a NASA image of the Crab Nebula that you'll compare your image to:

    • OR!
    • ➮ Use our NASA image of the Crab Nebula (taken by Chandra X-Ray Telescope)

      You'll find it in JS9, at the very bottom of the Archived Images dropdown (entitled crab, under NASA FITS Images). Process and save the image as a PNG or JPEG file.

  • Fill out this form, where you will submit your images to MicroObservatory’s ME vs. NASA image contest.
  • While you’re at it, feel free to share your photo on Facebook and Twitter, too! Use the hashtag #MEvsNASA, and mention @MicroObs (Twitter) or @MicroObservatory (Facebook).

When does the contest end?

The contest will end on December 15th, at which point we will choose winners and announce them on Facebook, Twitter and the MicroObservatory website.