Spotlight TEDx Talk: Insight into the Universe from the lead imager for the Hubble Space Telescope

Zoltan Levay at TEDxKC (Photo: TEDxKC)

Zoltan Levay at TEDxKC (Photo: TEDxKC)

Zoltan Levay has a really cool job: astrophotographer. He is responsible for the transformation of data taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope into sweeping views of our Universe — illuminating stars, galaxies, stardust and interstellar gas — in color and detail.

At TEDxKC, he explains how that works, sharing the story of the birth of the Hubble, its long-standing role in science research and its legacy of beautiful imagery.

One image, of the Carina Nebula, is particularly striking to Levay:

The Carina Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (Photo: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

The Carina Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (Photo: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

“[The Carina Nebula] is one of the most dynamic and complex areas [in space],” he says, “This particular image is one of the largest we’ve assembled from Hubble images in a mosaic. It totals about 500 million pixels: That’s the equivalent of about 250 high-definition television screens … It shows us the entire life cycle of stars in a single view.”

Another photo Zevay loves is of the spiral galaxy, NGC 1300:

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300 (Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); P. Knezek (WIYN))

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300 (Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); P. Knezek (WIYN))

Why? Because it displays the Hubble’s masterful ability to image areas of space dramatically far away from Earth. “It’s still one of my all-time favorite Hubble images,” Zevay says. “The light we see here took 61 million years to get to us,” he explains. “If we want to get an idea of our place in the cosmos, this is a pretty good place to look.”

Watch Zevay’s whole talk for more:

Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:

The speaker is a professional astrophotographer who is an expert on a remarkable development in space imaging technology — the Hubble Space Telescope. By providing insight on some of the Hubble’s most iconic photographs, the speaker shines a light on humankind’s knowledge of space itself and why we should continue expanding our reach. His talk is engaging and fact-based, supported with stunning visuals.

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