Summer 2019 Challenges: The Whirlpool Galaxy

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Summer 2019 Challenges: The Whirlpool Galaxy!

A beautiful face-on spiral galaxy, the Whirlpool's spiral pattern was first seen and sketched in 1845. At first, it was unclear whether astronomers were looking at a whole city of stars a long way off, or simply one nearby star and its newly formed planetary system. Can you see the small companion galaxy that is interacting with the larger spiral?

Want to try it out yourself? Check out the Summer 2019 Challenges!

Check out the AstroPix Website for NASA Imagery from many different telescopes.

Standout Entries: NASA Data Challenge

In this challenge, participants processed real NASA astronomical image data to create their own images. From all the submitted processed images, these were selected as a standout entry and NASA scientists gave feedback on the images. Click on an image below and hover to find details about each image!

Standout Entries: MicroObservatory Challenge

In this challenge, participants processed astronomical data that they collected from the MicroObservatory telescopes. From all the submitted processed images, these were selected as a standout entry and NASA scientists gave feedback on the images. Click on an image below and hover to find details about each image!

Subject Matter Expert Reviewers


Dr. Rupali Chandar

Dr. Rupali Chandar is a professor of astronomy and Associate Chair in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Toledo. She received her PhD in astrophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 2000, and went on to postdoctoral positions at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena. Her research focuses on understanding how stars and clusters of stars form and change over time in nearby galaxies like our own Milky Way. She’s been fortunate enough to work extensively with observations taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, which has given us the clearest view yet of nearby galaxies.


Dr. Daryl Haggard

Dr. Daryl Haggard is an Assistant Professor of Physics at McGill University in the McGill Space Institute. She and her team study the Galactic center and Sgr A*, electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources, accreting compact objects, supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, and multi-wavelength and time domain surveys. Dr. Haggard has been working with the Chandra X-ray Observatory since the beginning of her research career and looks forward to many more years of discovery with this fantastic NASA space telescope!


Dr. Marja Seidel

Dr. Marja Seidel is a staff scientist at IPAC/Caltech in Pasadena, California. IPAC is a Science Center for Astrophysics partnering with NASA, NSF, JPL and the worldwide research community to advance the exploration of our Universe. Dr. Seidel divides her time between research and outreach. In her research role, she combines observations and numerical simulations to better understand the formation of galaxy disks and the influence of dark matter. In her outreach role, she develops resources for NASA's Universe of Learning. Apart from being a researcher and science communicator in her job, Marja has also been leading worldwide outreach events and expeditions with Cielo y Tierra and Galileo Mobile.


Dr. J.D. Smith

Dr. J.D. Smith is a Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toledo. He received his PhD in astronomy at Cornell University in 2001, where he helped develop one of the three instruments to fly aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope. After graduate school, Prof. Smith completed postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona, then joined the research faculty at Steward Observatory, before moving to Ohio in 2008. His research focuses on the physical conditions of interstellar material as a tool for understanding galaxy evolution.


Dr. Christopher Britt

Dr. Christopher Britt used multi-wavelength observations from radio to X-ray wavelengths to find and study new neutron stars and black holes. He got his PhD from Louisiana State University and held post-doctoral research appointments at Texas Tech University and Michigan State University. In 2018, he became an Education and Outreach Scientist for the Space Telescope Science Institute, where he works with the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes to share cutting-edge astronomical research with the public.


Dr. Rutuparna Das

Dr. Rutuparna Das is an astrophysicist with NASA's Universe of Learning and the Chandra X-ray Center, spending her time both studying the universe and sharing its wonders with the community. For the last several years, she has been exploring observations of galaxy clusters in various wavelengths, especially through optical and X-ray light, and is always on the lookout for new ways to showcase the importance and beauty of multiwavelength astrophysics.


Joseph DePasquale

Joseph DePasquale is the Senior Science Visuals Developer in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Prior to joining STScI in March of 2017, Joe was the Science Imager for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory where he worked for 16 years following his undergraduate training in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Villanova University. Joe has an extensive background in astronomy, as well as training in art and photography, giving him a unique skill set well-suited to the task of bringing raw observatory data to life in press quality imagery.


Dr. Robert Hurt

Dr. Robert Hurt is an astronomer and “AstroVizicist” at Caltech/IPAC with a research background in star formation and galaxies. He specializes in data visualization and the development of illustrations and video to communicate science. He has been the imaging lead for a variety of NASA missions spanning the spectrum of light including the Spitzer Space Telescope, WISE, GALEX, and NuSTAR. He also produces science-based illustrations and artwork; his work has recently appeared on the cover of Nature, and his illustrations of exoplanets, black holes, and the Milky Way are widely used by the news and video media.


Kimberly Kowal Arcand

Kimberly Kowal Arcand is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has its headquarters at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since she always wanted to be an astronaut when she was little, this work gets Kim close to the cosmos but without the long distance commute. Arcand is a leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum. As a science data storyteller she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics.


Dr. Brandon Lawton

Dr. Brandon Lawton is an astronomer in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). He got his PhD in astronomy at New Mexico State University in 2008, studying mysterious dust signatures in other galaxies. This was followed by a postdoctoral position at STScI where he used Spitzer Space Telescope data to explore star formation in our neighboring galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds. Dr. Lawton has been a member of the Office of Public Outreach since 2011 where he works with the Hubble, JWST, and WFIRST outreach and communications teams, as well as with the broader NASA science education community, to deliver accurate cutting-edge science content to students, educators, and the general public.


Learn from Experts

Subject Matter Experts provide science content for each of the objects in NASA’s Astrophoto Challenges. Experts in astronomy and image processing also provide knowledgeable and positive feedback on standout entries in each challenge.



Chandra X-ray Observatory


Hubble Space Telescope


Professor of Physics, McGill Space Institute


Professor of Astronomy, University of Toledo


Spitzer Space Telescope


Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)


Professor of Astronomy, University of Toledo


Astrophysicist, IPAC/Caltech