NASA's Astrophoto Challenge

Lagoon Nebula

Lagoon Nebula, NASA's Hubble
Process Your Own Telescope Astrophotography Like NASA

For 30 years, NASA has captured images of the mysteries of space from a fleet of telescopes orbiting Earth known as the Great Observatories. With MicroObservatory, you — yes, you! — have the remarkable opportunity to control telescopes, capture images, and explore the same mysteries alongside NASA.

The Challenge

Request and process your own image of the Lagoon Nebula, using MicroObservatory's JS9 software. Then consider how your processed image compares to one of the Great Observatory images of the Lagoon Nebula that have been processed by NASA.

Click here for instructions

Who Can Participate?

Anyone can participate! You just need an email address to receive any images you take with the MicroObservatory robotic telescopes. If you are 12 or younger, you will need a parent or guardian to submit your photos for you.

How Do I Enter?

To submit your processed image to the challenge, fill out this form. You'll need your image as well as one of NASA's.

Contest Winners

The Science Education team at the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory will review all submissions, and choose a winner in these two categories:

Best Image Processing
using MicroObservatory and
the JS9 processing application

Most Interesting Comparison
between the image you processed and
a NASA-processed image

We will announce the winners of this season’s contest on our facebook page, our twitter page, as well as on the Observing with NASA website.

By entering this contest, you agree to allow Smithsonian to publish the images and information you provide in your submission form.
We will only use this information to recognize you on our website and social media if you win.

The Winners' Circle


Daniella's image

Best Image Processing

Daniella O.
"Similar colour scheme, and perpendicular to NASA's image. Much more minimalistic!"

NASA's image
Daniella's image

Most Interesting Comparison

Tera L.
"Well it obvious I'm not quite as talented as whoever did this NASA photo but I am getting a lot better than when I started off. My Orion is a bit simple I'll admit but I feel that I have improved a lot so I think it's OK if I compare this photo to the NASA photo and say it pretty good."

NASA's image


Jamie's image

Best Image Processing

Jamie T.
"The NASA image was taken in the infrared spectrum by the Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera. My image is in visible light and the Crab Nebula appears more in the red channel which is closer to the infrared."

NASA's image
Leonardo's image

Most Interesting Comparison

Tera L.
"Once I obtained the RGB image of the Crab Nebula, I decided to process it in false rainbow color in order to obtain the internal structure of the nebula. As in the NASA image, taken by Hubble Space Telescope, I was able to define different regions in the Crab Nebula which seem to correspond to the ones the scientists found thanks to the Hubble images. In particular I was able to detect the dense neutron region around the pulsar at the center of the nebula, that is visible in red in the center of my image. Furthermore, the orange and yellow colors in my image could correspond to the regions of the Crab Nebula where Hubble detected elements such as sulphur and oxygen. At the border of my image, the green colour may represent the edges of the nebula where hydrogen and energized oxigen were found by NASA scientists."

NASA's image

What To Do

Here are the three key steps to participating in NASA's Astrophoto Challenge. If you are new to MicroObservatory, you probably want to read the Long Instructions for each step. Otherwise the Short Instructions should be enough.

Step 1: Capture Your Image

Request an image of the Lagoon Nebula on the Observing with NASA page.

  • Go to
  • Click on the Observing with NASA portal, and then the Control Telescope tab.
  • Find the Whirlpool Galaxy, and then click the Observe button below it.
  • Fill out the necessary fields, and then submit your image request.
  • Your image will be emailed to you the next day.

Not sure what to do?

Watch the following tutorial:
How to Request an Image

Find other useful tutorials on the Tools & Training page.

Step 2: Create Your Image

Process your image of the Whirlpool Galaxy with the JS9-4L web application.

  • Go to
  • Click on the Observing with NASA portal, and then the Analyze Images tab.
  • Open the image of the Whirlpool Galaxy that were emailed in Step A (or choose from the images of the Whirlpool Galaxy in the Archived Images dropdown).
  • Use the processing tools included with the JS9-4L processor to enhance your image. Get creative!

Not sure what to do?

Watch the following tutorials:
How to Process a FITS Image
How to Create an RGB Image

Find other useful tutorials on the Tools & Training page.

Step 3: Compare Your Image

  • Choose a NASA image to compare it to.
  • Fill out this form, where you will submit your images to the MEvsNASA Image Contest.
  • Save your image to your computer as either a PNG or a JPEG file.
  • Choose a NASA image of the Whirlpool Galaxy that you'll compare your image to. (Or visit Astropix, where you can find all sorts of NASA images of your favorite objects in space.)
  • Fill out this form, where you will submit your images to our MEvsNASA image contest.
  • While you're at it, why not share your photo on Facebook and Twitter, too! Use the contest hashtag #MEvsNASA, and mention @MicroObs (Twitter) or @MicroObservatory (Facebook).

When does the contest end?

The contest will end on July 15th, at which point we will choose winners and announce them on Facebook, Twitter and the MicroObservatory website.