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ESO Outreach Community Newsletter April 2014
ESO — Reaching New Heights in Astronomy
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ESO Outreach Community Newsletter
April 2014

Dear Fellow Communicators,

The ESO Ultra HD Expedition adventure is approaching its end as our photo ambassadors are returning home. However, this is when the fun begins, as we start developing all the footage that has been captured in Chile. Stay tuned to our blog and on Twitter #ESOultraHD.

Adding the Ultra HD 4k and Fulldome formats to our list of video formats made us ponder on how to properly organise a database of photos and videos for an organisation. We’ve also been discussing image archives with our colleagues at CERN recently, so I decided to make a Top-10 list of lessons learned for image databases for your outreach use (which also more or less applies to video archives): 

  1. Licensing: The most important point of all is unfortunately boring, but essential. Assuming that you want people to use your images and share your brand with the world, the biggest showstopper is any possible legal limitations for their use. A simple, well-known license model for your images, such as the Creative Commons Attribution, sends a clear signal that your materials can be used, shared and remixed. And having all images (and videos) released under just one license makes life easier for everyone involved. Media, photographers, management, the public — and even your team and yourself — will know there is only one rule in the game — they need to display the credit — and this will save everyone a lot of time! Using the Creative Commons License will significantly increase the popularity of your images as it will be easy for people to use your footage. You will also save a lot of work if you do not need to go through an approval process with everyone who wants to use one of your images. Have a dedicated web page describing your license! This is the licensing information we have for ESO.

  2. Pipeline for incoming photos: Your team is going to need a well-functioning and clear pipeline for the incoming photos: evaluation criteria, colour correction, captioning, metadata tagging etc. You will then need a dedicated, talented and motivated team who digitises, colour corrects, scans historical photos, draft captions etc.

  3. Standard formats: It is highly recommended that you have a variety of standard formats in which you deliver all images. The formats should satisfy all the most common user needs in terms of size, compression etc. Here is a list of our different image sizes and formats.

  4. Optimal quality: Always give the demanding user (the professionals who are often the best multiplicators) the chance to download optimal, uncompressed resolution online, regardless of the size of image (the biggest image on is 9 gigapixels!). This will save you an incredible amount of work answering requests for “images in higher resolution” (the most frequent question we are asked).

  5. No one-off delivery: Use the web image archive as a “funnel”. All requests for material which is not online must pass through the image archive. So if an image is developed for a particular need, get it uploaded and the link sent to the requester. This is the best way to strengthen your archive.

  6. Continuous renewal: You should make sure you have fresh photos coming in on a continuous basis. For example, we work with a great network of around 20 ESO Photo Ambassadors — ESO staff or other talented individuals who have a passion for photography and astrophotography. We have also opened a Flickr group called Your ESO Pictures where we encourage anyone who visits our sites to share their photo impressions. The group has passed 1000 photos and continues to be a great “lifeline” for the public and ourselves to the remote observatory sites.

  7. Publish and promote: Images can be used in a variety of ways: print products, Pictures of the Week, press releases etc. Make sure that the good stuff gets headline billing, and properly promote it! Bring older photos back to life on social media, as we do, for example, on ESO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts via our Flashbacks!

  8. Use standardised metadata: Astronomical images have a particularly a rich set of information available about exposures, the coordinates, the telescope and filters used etc. The Astronomy Visualization Metadata standard (AVM) provides you with a great set of standard metadata tags that can be filled in and used in a range of applications.

  9. Effective back end: One of the most sensitive and important components is to have a good content management system that stores and serves the images. It needs to be fast and easy to use for the people show daily feed the system with new material. At ESO and ESA/Hubble we use our own system, Djangoplicity, which was developed in 2003 following all the principles outlined here. It is focused on all the needs of an active newstream, such as publication at a given time, staging, embargo sites and much more.

  10. Effective front end: Finally an effective front end looks good to the user and allows them always find what they are looking for. An advanced search function that makes good use of your metadata can make it easier to find very specific things in your archive. And it should be possible to make tailored queries as links. For instance all, images of VISTA, or all images taken by the VLT. The front end should present the metadata in an orderly way and, in an ideal world, also provide added functionality like World Wide Telescope embedding, see for instance this image. If your community is large and multinational, translations are necessary to get those non-English speakers onboard. And if you have a rich archive the material should be listed in roughly order of “quality”, so that the best stuff appears highest up.

I hope this can be of a little help (at least it was fun for me to write up ;).

Let’s reach new heights in astronomy together,

Lars Lindberg Christensen (
Head, ESO education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD)

  ESO Announcements

Award for ESO Headquarters Extension Architects Auer Weber

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Earthquake in Chile Causes No Damage or Casualties at ESO Observatories — ESO expresses sympathy and support for victims

2 April 2014: A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck northwest Chile at 20:46 local time (01:46 CEST) on Tuesday 1 April 2014. The epicentre was about 95 kilometres north-west of the ...

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The Messenger No. 155 Now Available

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New Countries Join ESO Science Outreach Network

28 March 2014: The ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON) has grown wider following the appointment of national representatives for Hungary, Serbia and Australia. The network now covers 30 countries, including the 15 ESO ...

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ESO Ultra HD Expedition Begins — ESO Photo Ambassadors start pioneering expedition into the Ultra High Definition Universe

27 March 2014: ESO's Ultra HD Expedition team have begun their journey to capture ESO's three unique observing sites in Chile in all their grandeur. ESO's videographer Herbert Zodet and ...

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Media Advisory: Press Conference in Brazil to Announce Discovery in Outer Solar System

25 March 2014: An international team of astronomers, led by Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), has used telescopes at seven locations in South America, including the 1.54-metre ...

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Rick Astley Visits ESO in Santiago

8 April 2014: Rick Astley, the British pop singer and songwriter, visited the ESO offices at Vitacura in Santiago de Chile, on 7 April 2014. Astley — who sold more than 40 million records ...

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ESOcast 64: First Ring System Around Asteroid

26 March 2014: This ESOcast shows how observations at many sites in South America, including ESO's La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two ...

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 ESO Press Releases

New on

Check our available image formats!

Ultra HD Blog Post #31: Expedition day 14: Santiago-bound

Ultra HD Blog Post #30: Expedition day 13: Shooting from La Silla

Ultra HD Blog Post #29: Expedition day 12: Dawn at La Silla

Ultra HD Blog Post #28: Expedition day 11: Journey to La Silla

Ultra HD Blog Post #27: Expedition day 10: Last day at ALMA

Ultra HD Blog Post #26: Expedition day 9: Perfect Skies Over ALMA

Ultra HD Blog Post #25: Expedition day 8: Capturing the Clear Cool Cosmos

Ultra HD Blog Post #24: Expedition day 7: Journey to ALMA

Ultra HD Blog Post #23: Expedition day 6: Onwards to ALMA

Ultra HD Blog Post #22: Expedition day 5: Sunset Over Paranal

New APOD: A Milky Way Dawn

Ultra HD Blog Post #21: Expedition day 4: VLT Takes Centre Stage

Ultra HD Blog Post #20: Expedition day 3: Paranal – ESO Ultra HD Expedition Work Begins

Ultra HD Blog Post #19: Expedition day 2: The Jewel on the Mountaintop

Ultra HD Blog Post #18: Expedition day 1: Europe to South America

Ultra HD Blog Post #17: Packing and Planning

New flyer: Exploring the Universe in 3D with MUSE, KMOS and ALMA

Ultra HD Blog Post #16: Smooth Shooting

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