Astroimager “honored” by NASA

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Friday, October 21, 2011

Astronomy magazine features some well-known contributors, many on the science end and others who represent amateur astronomy. And when one of these people wins the Nobel Prize, for example, or receives some other award, we like to tout it here. What you’re about to read, however, may be the strangest “honor” one of our contributors has ever received.

The backdrop to the International Space Station’s Expedition 30 crew picture is an image of spiral galaxy NGC 3521 created by astroimager and Astronomy magazine contributor R. Jay GaBany. Unfortunately, NASA chose not to include him in the credits. // Photo by NASA and International Space Station partners
Astroimager R. Jay GaBany has sent Astronomy his high-quality shots for years, and we’ve published many of them. Most recently, his photograph of the Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) was the main image on the cover of our recent special issue, Spectacular Universe. It’s not hard to imagine, then, that others have taken note of his celestial imaging. Well, here’s a message Jay recently sent me:

About a week ago, I received an email from NASA informing me they had discovered my most recent image of NGC 3521, the “galaxy in a bubble,” and selected it to act as the backdrop for the official crew portrait of Expedition 30, the next mission to the International Space Station.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by this news. I did not submit this image for their consideration nor did I know NASA was aware of its existence. However the crew discovered it, NASA “higher-ups” reviewed it, and together they decided it would be appropriate for the official group portrait. Curiously, I was told Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night was an alternative.

Unfortunately, after gaining approval for the image from the NASA Public Affairs Office, the Johnson Space Center Photo Archive, and the NASA Digital Imagery Lab (and their legal office), the NASA Public Affairs Office refused a request, made on my behalf, to have my name included in the image citation on the NASA Web page. The picture simply credits NASA and International Space Station partners. Naturally, this decision has somewhat muted my celebration.

Out of concern that any protest may result in the image being reconsidered or removed, I have decided to count my blessings, not press my luck, and thank my lucky star that the picture was chosen in the first place. I was told there is no restriction on claiming credit for the backdrop picture anywhere else, but it will not be acknowledged by NASA on its website.

I have created a page on my website so interested visitors can find it there.

For what’s it’s worth, I was informed this is the first time in the history of the U.S. space program that an amateur photograph of the heavens has commemorated a manned space mission.

So, when and if you start to hear more about this mission, please think of me and know I am now a small, anonymous International Space Station partner.

The encouragement I sent to Jay was to keep up the great work. And to the rest of you reading this, well, as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

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