With over one million observations since it launched on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been a endless source of insane wonders, unprecedented scenes and humbling experiences. However, many of its amazing images have never before been seen until now, and some actually show objects nobody knew existed.
The European Space Agency calls them Hubble's hidden treasures — the unknown secret galaxies and stars that have remained unseen in the Space Telescope's data vaults until the ESA asked the public to dive in on a quest to find them. What people have found is amazing.
According to the ESA:
[Of the million observations] only a small proportion are attractive images — and an even smaller number are ever actually seen by anyone outside the small groups of scientists that publish them. But the vast amount of data in the archive means that there are still many hundreds of beautiful images scattered among the valuable, but visually unattractive, scientific data that have never been enjoyed by the public.
So the ESA opened the vaults to everyone. A few months later, they had 3000 stunning submissions in their servers. "More than a thousand of these images were fully processed," says the ESA.
Incredibly enough, there was no payment for all these image-hunting and processing hours done by the public except for a few small prizes for the top 10 in two categories — basic imaging and image processing. The volunteers did it all out of the love for the quest, a desire to explore and find something that nobody has seen before in this way.
Here are the results:
The winner of the image-processing category was Josh Lake, for the star-forming region NGC 1763, followed by Andre van der Hoeven and his image of the spiral galaxy Messier 77. My favourite was found and processed by Judy Schmidt, a web developer from Lakeside, California. It's the star XZ Tauri. According to the European Space Agency, this was the jury's favourite. In fact, they found "an unusual object that we would never have found without her help".
Here's Lake's NGC 1763:
And van der Hoeven's Messier 77:
You can see all the winning images at the ESA site.