26 May 2015

‘People’s Choice’ highlights: Rock photomicrographs and the beauty of light science and technology



Bernardo Cesare’s photo (above) displays granulite rock under a microscope. The picture resembles a piece of stained glass window through sunlight, but it’s just a thin slice of rock 0.03 mm in thickness and 5 mm in size. The rock’s beautiful "interference colors" derive from the interaction of polarized light with the crystalline matter.

Cesare is one of 32 contestants for the People’s Choice Award competition in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest. Judges have already chosen three winners, but now it's your turn to choose. SPIE is providing a prize of US $500 to the People's Choice winner. Online voting continues through 15 August.

This blog post features entries illustrating science and technology, including Cesare's, above, and four others, below. Future posts will showcase other entries -- follow the blog to catch them all.

Of his work, Cesare says on the National History Museum of London website,“My aim is to reveal the beauty of a world that is normally accessible only to geologists and through images to tell the fascinating story of our planet.”

Cesare is a professor of Petrology at the University of Padova. As a geologist, he uses photography in his scientific work. His project, micRockScopica, is a collection of photomicrographs and microphotographs which have been displayed in mineralogical and scientific photo galleries in Europe and the United States.

While studying minerals and rocks in Kerala, India, Cesare realized the potential beauty of this piece of granulite rock. After finding a thin transparent slice of the granulite he transmitted polarized light through the slice. The light rays displayed the natural interference colors shown in his photograph.

To brighten the original grey colors, he placed a red tint plate in front of the polarized light. The greys turned into blues and purples.

For more information about Cesare, see:


Other People’s Choice finalists who demonstrated light in science and technology in their photography are:

"The Constant," by Jasper da Seymour, Mystery Creek Cave, Tasmania, Australia, 15 July 2014. Inspired by the art of painting with light, Seymour uses fiber optic lighting in his photography. See Seymour's portfolio.

"Interference in Soapy Water Film," by Andrew Davidhazy, Rochester, New York, USA, 2011. Interference of light causes colors to appear in thin films which otherwise appear transparent and colorless. For more high-speed, schlieren photographs see Davidhazy's portfolio.

"Jewels on the Window," by Daniela Rapav√°, residence, Rimavsk√° Sobota, Slovakia, 12 January 2013. "The nature of light: what are photons?" For centuries we have used the word "interference" to describe the dark-bright bands recorded when we superpose two coherent light beams at a small angle on a detector.

"Phaser Laser," by Cory Stinson, San Diego State University, California, USA, August 2010. From healing the human eye to removing layers of pollution from century old marble statues, laser technology is helping researchers develop new ways to improve people's lives.

21 May 2015

Photonics for Nepal earthquake response: seven ways and counting

Photonics technologies are helping Nepal cope with recent devastating earthquakes.
(Image: GlobalMedic)


When massive, lethal earthquakes hit Nepal earlier this spring, photonics technologies from satellites to smartphones were employed to aid first responders and follow-on relief efforts. Photonics is also helping to predict future earthquake locations and possibly mitigate the potential for destruction, reported Rebecca Pool in the SPIE Newsroom. Some highlights from the article:

1. High-resolution satellite imagery: Immediately after the first earthquake, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, a joint United Nations and European Commission initiative, instructed the UN’s high-resolution satellite imagery program, UNOSAT, and partners to start mapping the region. Images of priority regions were swiftly integrated into a web map.

2. Interferograms: To pinpoint areas at greatest risk from future earthquakes, the European Space Agency has produced interferograms from data captured by its radar satellite Sentinel-1A. Imagery acquired before and after the earthquake has been combined to produce interference patterns that researchers use to quantify ground movement.
Interferogram over Kathmandu, Nepal,
generated from two Sentinel-1A
scans on 17 and 29 April 2015, before
and after the 25 April earthquake.
(Copyright Contains Copernicus data
(2015)/ESA/DLR Microwaves and
Radar Institute/GFZ/e-GEOS/INGV-ESA
SEOM INSARAP study)

3. Radar satellite measurements plus GPS: ESA has been working with Cambridge Earth Systems Sciences to combine radar satellite measurements with GPS data and general seismic observations. Researchers can thereby better understand the physics of Nepal's earthquakes and model what's happened below the earth's surface to assess future potential earthquakes.

... plus seismic observations: Researchers from Caltech and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) have combined satellite radar-imaging data with GPS data and worldwide seismic observations to estimate the slippage of the fault beneath Nepal. The research forms part of the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project, providing tools and data for relief groups.

4. UAV-captured photo and video: Images from drones -- unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) -- were among the first to reveal post-earthquake devastation and have helped responders pinpoint where aid is needed. Aeryon Labs has supported GlobalMedic by supplying three small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs) and a flight engineer to capture aerial photography and live videography for detailed mapping of disaster zones. Infrared cameras can capture images closer to the ground than satellites or manned aircraft, with operators able to locate a human face some 300m away.
UNOSAT's live web maps combine
layers of data to, for example,
illustrate the relationship between
building damange assessments
and ground displacement. The
circles illustrate the distance from
the epicenter of the first Nepal
earthquake. (Image: UNOSAT)

5. Low-power microwave radar: A novel search-and-rescue technology dubbed FINDER -- Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response -- located four men trapped under some ten feet of rubble. Under development by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and NASA JPL, FINDER uses low-power microwave radar to detect small movements from breathing and heartbeats of buried victims.

6. Crowdsourced image data: Crowdsourcing has played a massive part in recovery and rescue missions as well. As part of its relief efforts, commercial satellite operator DigitalGlobe activated Tomnod, a crowdsourcing platform that has allowed online volunteers to pore over satellite images, comparing new images with old, and to tag damaged infrastructure.

More than 30,000 volunteers have used the platform since the first Nepal earthquake, said DigitalGlobe's Georgios Ouzounis. Thousands of damaged roads, buildings and areas of major destruction have been catalogued. Relief groups have been able to target areas with the largest number of survivors in need of food, water, tents and medical supplies.

7. Smartphone app: UNOSAT has developed a free smartphone app called UN-ASIGN that automatically uploads photos taken by volunteers to the organisation's web-maps. In Nepal, volunteer images have validated satellite imagery and provided accurate details on damage in specific locations.

Read more about photonics technology being used by responders and aid teams in Nepal and see more images, on the SPIE Newsroom.

12 March 2015

The Hubble: 25 years of photonics for a better cosmos



It seems only yesterday that the magnificent Hubble Space Telescope (HST) launched. But in reality, it was April 24, 1990. Since then, it’s been consistently the most visible science story in the mass media – there’s something about gorgeous astrophotography that engages the public. But behind the beautiful photos, there are important discoveries the Hubble has enabled. Learning about dark energy and the rate of the expansion of the universe, the first direct image of a planet outside our solar system, and the Hubble Deep Field Shot (see below), the most magnified picture of a spot of the sky ever taken with optical light -- all are among HST’s long list of accomplishments. 

http://spie.org/images/Graphics/Newsroom/NewsArticleImages/HSTdeepfield.jpg
The Deep Field Shot (NASA). Click to enlarge.
                                           
Ganymede's auroral belts, colored blue, overlaid on a Galileo orbiter image of the moon.
This week, we heard the latest staggering revelation – the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. It may have more water than all of Earth’s oceans. In a fascinating investigation, German scientist Joachim Saur proposed observing the moon’s aurorae (in image at left), which are controlled by magnetic fields, to determine whether an underground ocean was creating “magnetic friction” with Jupiter’s magnetic field.

The Hubble’s 25 years are the focus of a celebration including special events in various locations and online. This weekend at SXSW in Austin, TX, featured events include a NASA exhibit booth, a NASA social event, and panels featuring expert discussions on Hubble’s contributions to science. An online “playoff bracket” (March Madness, anyone?) allows the public to vote on matchups of their favorite Hubble photographs, with the “winner” to be announced on April 6. 

On March 26, Astronaut Mike Massimino will be participating in the Exploring Space Lecture Series at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. New Hubble images will be installed in the museum in April. For more information visit: http://airandspace.si.edu/.

On March 28, an anniversary event will be held at the Visitor Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Speakers will include Hubble scientist Jennifer Wiseman and Hubble Servicing Mission 4 photographer Michael Soluri. 

In addition to the public events, there is a new series of educational videos created by STScI. Those videos can be found online at: http://hubble25th.org/

While there’s not yet a target date for decommissioning the HST, it is hoped that observations will continue for several more years, even after it has been joined by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), with a planned launch in 2018. John Mather, chief scientist for the JWST and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, called the Hubble “beautiful and powerful” in this SPIE interview about the JWST.
                                                                                                 
There are more than 800 papers in the SPIE Digital Library related to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, MD, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, DC.