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How Do You Make a Picture of a Galaxy?

Live Chat June 1st, 2020

Discover the mysteries of the strangely explosive starburst galaxy M82, and see the many versions of it submitted by people from all over the world who participated in NASA's Astrophoto Challenges.

These challenges give anyone a chance to work with real astronomical data to create their own image of a galaxy using ground-based observations from a robotic telescope network or data from NASA mission archives. For more information, or to make your own astrononomy image, visit the site Observing with NASA.

This show was originally broadcast LIVE on July 1st @ 5 PM (PDT)

Biographies of Show Participants


A Los Angeles native, Phil is an alumnus of Yale University and The Groundlings Theater and perhaps is best known as one of the original cast members of MAD TV, as “Hermes” on FUTURAMA,  as "Marvin" in PULP FICTION, “Green Lantern” on JUSTICE LEAGUE and as the voice of SAMURAI JACK. For over 30 years Phil has thrilled audiences with his work on camera and behind the microphone on TV shows such as STATIC SHOCK, FAMILY GUY, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, the CW’s THE FLASH & SUPERGIRL, GET SHORTY, LUCIFER and VEEP; feature films like MADAGASCAR 2, INCREDIBLES 2, and THE LION KING (2019) and video games including FORTNITE, SHADOW OF MORDOR, and the INJUSTICE, METAL GEAR SOLID, and the MORTAL KOMBAT series.


Sabrina is an astrophysicist based in Los Angeles and a physics professor at Occidental College. Her research uses multi-wavelength surveys to study the cosmological assembly history of galaxies. She uses nearby, interacting galaxies to understand how stars and galaxies formed throughout the universe's history. She uses data from space-based telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer, and XMM-Newton, along with data from ground-based telescopes like ALMA, the VLA, and Magellan. She hosts the weekly science podcast Everyday Einstein and can be seen in a TEDx talk.

ROBERT HURT (Astronomer)

Robert is an astronomer at Caltech-IPAC with a research background in star formation and galaxies. He specializes in data visualization and the development of illustrations and video to help explain science to the public. His data visulalizations span a wide range of NASA missions including Spitzer, Kepler, WISE/NEOWISE, NuSTAR, and GALEX. He has helped develop immersive visualizations, including the Exoplanet Excursions app. Robert is part of NASA's Universe of Learning team and contributes to a number of projects including AstroPix and Universe Unplugged videos.

More Info

Making Your Own M82 Images

Observing with NASA

With access to MicroObservatory’s network of robotic telescopes, you can join NASA in its mission to explore the cosmos. The Observing with NASA website gives you controls over this network of ground-based telescopes, where you can choose targets, capture your own image, and enhance the details with professional image-processing software. Whether you’re hoping to learn what goes on inside a galaxy or bring out the beauty in a planetary nebula, there’s a lot to discover in every MicroObservatory image.

Astrophoto Challenges Archive

Every season of NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges gives you access to new datasets from NASA to create your own astrophotography masterpieces. Want to work with datasets from past seasons? You still can! The Challenges Archive holds all past datasets, which you can load directly into the image-processing application and start enhancing immediately.

M82 Galaxy Galleries

Astrophoto NASA Data

Browse featured entries from M82 NASA Data Challenge

Astrophoto Microobservatory

Browse featured entries from M82 Microobservatory Challenge

M82 Astropix

View the galaxy M82 as seen by leading observatories on the ground and in space on AstroPix