Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD

(Phone: 410-338-4493)

For 1-1/2 years, the Hubble Heritage Program has offered

the public a monthly visual treat, a sumptuous picture taken by NASA’s

Hubble Space Telescope.

Now the Heritage program has received a treat of its own.

The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City will present

the Sixteenth Annual Infinity Award for Applied Photography to the Heritage

program at an awards ceremony May 11. The Heritage program team, composed

of astronomers and other technical experts, is based at the Hubble telescope’s

science operations center, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore,


The Infinity Awards, which are given in eight categories,

honor excellence in the field of photography and writing. The Applied

Photography category encompasses architectural, fashion, and scientific

photography. The awards’ selection committee, consisting of an international

team of photography experts, cited the project for valuing “both scientific

information and aesthetic presence” in producing celestial photographs.

Hubble Heritage Program Scientist Keith Noll is pleased

that the committee understands the project’s dual purpose of creating

beautiful photographs without sacrificing scientific details.

“These are not just fluff photographs,” he says. “We plan

all our observations, keeping in mind the immense scientific value of

Hubble images. We want the end products to be both beautiful images and

research papers, and this has already happened.”

Adds Jayanne English, one of the Heritage program’s image

processing specialists: “We attempt to preserve the scientific integrity

of a celestial object while enhancing it visually. They’re not mutually

exclusive. For example, we may take a well-known image and rotate it,

so that it’s not the same orientation astronomers are accustomed to seeing

in the astronomy catalogues of celestial objects. That small change can

make the image more dynamic and adds depth.”

The Hubble Heritage program provides the public with some

of the very best celestial snapshots taken by the orbiting observatory’s

visible-light camera, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The team

produces a new picture every month by either mining the rich feast of

images in the telescope’s archive or using Hubble to make new observations

of heavenly bodies that were selected by the public.

“Although astronomers don’t usually make the comparison,

Hubble is, essentially, a giant digital camera in orbit,” Noll says. “What

makes using Hubble different is that we need a lot of specialized skills

to make beautiful images.”

One won’t find any past winners in the Applied Photography

category using a camera that comes close to the size and breadth of Hubble’s

visible-light camera. The past winners include some of the biggest names

in photography, including Annie Leibovitz, whose work has appeared in

“Rolling Stone,” “Vogue,” and “Vanity Fair.”

ICP, founded in 1974 by photojournalist Cornell Capa, celebrates

photography’s diversity through exhibitions, educational programs, and


Visit the Heritage program website at

A new image is posted on the first Thursday of every month.

Hubble Heritage team members are Keith Noll, Howard Bond,

Carol Christian, Jayanne English, Lisa Frattare, Forrest Hamilton, and

Zolt Levay.