It’s Friday, July 15th 2022 and next week, Things That Caught My Attention will be on vacation. I’ll be back on Monday 25th July, hopefully with some nice pictures of the Milky Way, too.
So I’m busy looking at the James Webb Space Telescope’s stunning images of the Carina Nebula, and this is how my brain works:
Me: Hey, this new laptop is supposed to have some kind of awesome display with better dynamic range and brightness (so Apple says), so is there a way in which this already awesome image of the Cosmic Cliffs could look better?
And the answer, in a roundabout way, is… maybe? The TIFF that I downloaded, the giant, hundred-plus megabyte one, isn’t an HDR image, it’s got a regular sRGB color profile and I can’t easily tell that it’s got more bits per pixel.
So it’s an entirely reasonable question when someone asks: well, can you get the raw data from JWST?
Of course you can. It’s not like somebody’s going to fund an ~$8 billion telescope and not make the data public, right? So off I go and start looking it up and it turns out JWST makes all of its data available from its AWS S3 buckets, of all places (I mean, where else?) and you can go and grab shell scripts that will download the data from the Webb First Images.
Protip: I’ve got a gigabit fiber connection that I’m wired into over ethernet and grabbing the Carina images (a good ~310GB) took about an hour, maybe?
Anyway, you grab all that raw data and then you find out that sure, Photoshop and Affinity Photo can open the raw FITS files, but you also start learning about the JWST calibration pipeline and reading the Getting Started with JWST Data documentation and really, the software stack and management here looks super impressive! You end up learning about FITS Liberator, an open source, cross-platform application for processing FITS data and turning it into stuff you can muck about with and stack.
But the short answer is: if you wanted to make HDR images of JWST data, given that the sensors record 16 bit raw data and then you’ve got to map all of that to “colors” then sure, knock yourself out.
In the meantime, I learned that it’s probably possible and I lazywebbily look forward to someone else doing it.
That’s it for today! It’s been a super stressful week. See you in just over a week.