Imagine the Universe!

What is this image?

What is this image?

image of frost on a window.
Click for larger image
Ice Crystals, CUSP Lab Window, Admunson-Scott, Antarctica

I love patterns. This is a life-sized image of frost on a window. After taking this photo I became interested in ice crystals, how they grow and interact with light. Sometimes the patterns are like those in astronomy, and sometimes they're more like those I see in watching the snow drifts, and watching the wave patterns they make. There's a rule for things out there, and it's cool. It is important to keep an open eye out for the exceptions to known patterns -- these examples can provide the clue the next level of understanding. Why do I like small things, such as ice crystals? Sometimes people walk right by and don't even notice. I have a macro lens, and I remember saving for it when I was in 10th grade. I have used it for years in seeing things up close. A piece of dust has a beautiful character also, but one has to look closely.

I used to take tons of photographs. I worked as a photographer for a local newspaper and later for a technical magazine; I would develop my own photos. I also worked for a pathology photo lab. I learned a lot about chemistry and the importance of process control in making images which were stable in time. One of my favorite classes in colleges was entitled "The Physics of Photography" - it provided a wonderful vehicle to understand how imaging instruments work.

Downhill Uphill
Muir Woods (

Sometimes it's how you look at things. ... sometimes it's how it's illuminated, and just taking the time to see it. You look one way and think, "That is so beautiful." Then, you look the other way, and think, "That is so different." For example, take a look at the two pictures above, taken from the same spot in Muir Woods. The red leaves looking downhill (in photo on left) are the same thing as in the photo looking uphill (photo on right). But it's how you compose and record the image. In taking time really see the world one can appreciate its wondrous forms.

Publication Date: January, 2011

Archived Biographies

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

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