Prize is a trip to ESO observatory in Chile\n\n[URL]http://tinyurl.com/24duz2o[/URL]\n\nWhen professional astronomers gather around the proverbial water\ncooler, I'll bet the conversation sometimes turns to all the help\nthey're getting these days from amateurs around the world. It's not\njust the terrific job you do observing planets, supernovae, and\ncomets; you also help out behind the scenes with image- and data-\nprocessing skills.\n\n(As just one example, check out this amazing morphing animation\ncreated by Daniel MachÃ¡Äek from just five images from the recent flyby\nof Comet Hartley 2.)\n\nESO's Hidden Treasures contest\nThe European Southern Observatory invites do-it-yourself image\ndabblers to explore its archives and submit entries in its Hidden\nTreasures photo contest, which ends November 30th.\n\nESO\nHoping to tap into all that image-processing prowess, officials at the\nEuropean Southern Observatory have launched the Hidden Treasures\ncontest to see who can create the most wonderful views of the cosmos\nfrom archived imaging data.\n\nESO's astronomers have amassed a rich trove of gorgeous cosmic vistas\nover the years, so there's plenty of material to work with. What I\nespecially like about Hidden Treasures is how it empowers those of you\nwho love great astrophotography but might not have the gear and gizmos\nto do it (or do it well) yourself.\n\n"We normally publish these images ourselves for the public to admire,\nsuch as the ESO Top 100," explains outreach specialist Oana Sandu.\n"However, this time we wanted the public to have the opportunity to\nprocess images just like professional astronomers do, and to try to\nobtain their own amazing views of our universe."\n\nBe forewarned: there's lots of slogging involved in the Hidden\nTreasures competition. "This is not for the faint-hearted," the\ncontest's website notes. "Many terabytes of data are available,\nspanning many years, different instruments and technologies. The\nindividual files in the archive are each single exposures, obtained\nthrough a single filter. They need to be extensively processed and\ncombined to bring out the beauty hidden in there."\n\nOK, this is way out of my league â€” but I know many of you can do it!\n\nSo why should you?\n\nVery Large Telescope in Chile\nPicture yourself here! It's sunset, and four giant instruments spring\nto life at the Very Large Telescope atop Cerro Paranal in Chile.\n(Three of them, named Antu, Kueyen, and Melipal, are seen here.) Each\nhas a primary mirror 27 feet (8.2 m) across).\n\nS&T: J. Kelly Beatty\nFor a chance at first prize: an all-expenses-paid trip to ESO's\namazing Very Large Telescope atop Cerro Paranal in Chile â€” including\nan overnight stay to participate in one of the observing runs!\n\nI visited the VLT in late 2003, and I can attest that it's an amazing\nplace (as is Chile in general). Runner-up prizes include an iPod\nTouch, laser-engraved glass cubes with a model of the VLT, and Eyes on\nthe Skies book-DVD combos.\n\nThe concept is simple. First, you identify and retrieve a data set\nfrom the ESO's science archive. Then you combine and process the\nimages in any way you wish (the official rules are here â€” one taboo:\nno "paintingâ€ allowed). Then save your masterpiece and submit it as a\nmoderate-size JPEG file. You can pool resources with others to enter\nas a team, and you can enter as many images as you wish.\n\nThe deadline for submissions is November 30th at 23:00 Universal Time\n(that's midnight CEST, 6 p.m. EST, and 3 p.m. PST). Entries will be\njudged for their aesthetic quality, processing quality, and\noriginality by ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut and imaging specialists\nRichard Hook, Davide de Martin, and Lars Lindberg Christensen.\n\nOf course, the devil is in the details. "The competition is\nchallenging," Sandu admits. "Candidates need to be able to master\ntechnical skills and to have a creative mind as well." But the website\nprovides full support for accessing the archive and even links to a\nlist of image-processing programs.\n\nSo good luck to you and your pixel-picking pluck!