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Feb. 27, 2006: Mars As Art Abstract Accepted by International Space Development Conference

In response to a "Call for Papers" for the 2006 International Space Development Conference, Jim Plaxco submitted an abstract for the convention's art track. Titled "Mars Science As Art Using Subjective Image Processing", the paper has been accepted for presentation at this year's conference.

The 2006 International Space Development Conference will be held in Los Angeles on May 4-7, 2006. This is the 25th ISDC and will undoubtedly be the largest gathering of space activists anywhere on the planet this year. The conference, hosted by the National Space Society, is being cohosted this year by The Planetary Society and features an outstanding lineup of speakers and special guests.

Following is the "Mars Science As Art Using Subjective Image Processing" abstract as submitted to the ISDC.

The combination of NASA mission data archives available via the Internet, readily available image processing software, and powerful home computers has made it possible for the space activist to access and process Mars robotic mission imaging data on their own.

To the imaging engineer, the techniques of contrast enhancement, noise removal, false color application, and other mathematical techniques used to alter pixel values, can be combined with the artistic theories of composition, tonal balance, and color theory to produce images of Mars that are both beautiful and educational.

The process begins with the identification and acquisition of an appropriate PDS image file. This process is slightly complicated as a consequence of the recent migration from the west longitude to the east longitude system. Once obtained, the PDS file is then converted into a standard graphics file format. Using various techniques for noise removal, histogram stretching, and tonal balancing, an acceptable black and white version of an image is created. The next step is to identify the feature of interest in the image and to crop and orient the image so as to best illustrate that feature while striving to apply rules of composition. The final step is to colorize the image. False color images can be created by using any one of several methods. Because coloring is the single most powerful element in the transmission of visual information, care must be taken in its production.

Integrating art and science to produce beautiful images can serve as a source of inspiration for continued exploratory missions. These images can also be a door to enlightenment, serving as a foundation for educational presentations. Understanding the supplementary PDS data fields are most important with respect to understanding images acquired from orbit. These data make it possible to more fully describe to the audience the nature of the images they are seeing. Of particular importance are image scale, geographic location and season, aspect ratio if uncorrected, slant angle and sun angle and azimuth.

The ability to choose from the full range of Mars imaging data products, and not just those released via public information channels, provides the most flexibility for developing unique presentations explaining the geology of Mars. Examples of images that are most geologically and climatically illustrative are those of crater morphologies, chaotic terrains, defrosting terrains, dune fields, gully formations, the polar regions, sedimentary deposits, valley systems, and volcanoes.

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