Imaging the Universe Online
Credit: Nebula: NASA / ESA / M. Livio (STScI). Earth inset: Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli.
by Paul Deans
Whether it's in my role as Mercury editor or while I'm working on other projects, I spend numerous hours surfing the Web. Much of the time I'm looking for images -- night-sky scenes, planets, constellations, stars, nebulae, galaxies, or exotic cosmic doodads for which there are no photos, only artist's impressions.
While searching, I'm particularly conscious of copyright. The ASP has an excellent reputation, and we have never a problem securing permission to use photos in Mercury. But some sites are (justifiably) touchy about how their images are used, and while I like to always select the best I can find, there are times when a copyright-free (or public-domain) image is the best way to go. The public-domain route is often the easiest one for educators to follow, too. The image is there for the downloading: no muss, no fuss.
In this article I've tried to include sites that offer nothing but public-domain images and video clips, I've added a brief section on astronomical illustrations, and since Earth is an astronomical object, I've included websites containing striking images of our planet from space.
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