July, 2010

Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

eScience & Technical Computing - Web Services and Scientific Research

July, 2010

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    TeraPixel–Largest, Smoothest Image in the World


    As part of the WorldWide Telescope Apogee release yesterday we also released TeraPixel – the largest, smoothest image of the sky – a spherical image that we believe is the worlds largest image available for anyone to view. 

    First thing to understand how large a TeraPixel image is – it’s a Million by Million pixels in size – to be able to view an image of that size at it’s highest resolution you would need 500,000 HDTVs.  So one challenge was not just stitching the images together – but to actually make it seamless and smooth – and that was the challenge taken on by a small team about 6 months ago.  image

    The TeraPixel project began with data from the Digitized Sky Survey, which is a collection of 1791 pairs of red-light and blue-light images taken over a period of 50 years by two ground based survey telescopes— the Palomar telescope in imageCalifornia, United States and the UK Schmidt telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The Palomar telescope took photographs of the Northern sky, and the Southern sky down to around 30 degrees south. The UK Schmidt telescope took photographs of the rest of the Southern sky.

    To create the TeraPixel – there were 3 major computational and data intensive steps:

    • Create color plates from DSS data
    • Stitch and smooth images
    • Create sky image pyramid for WWT



    The Vignetting Correction was need to because the corners of end up being less exposed – so a flat field was created to normalize the intensity of the images.

    Astrometric Alignment created a new blue plate so that the plates had the same size and that a given pixel location from the two plates referred to the same position in the sky.

    The Green channel was created from the two plates and then the saturation and noise were corrected with the new plates created. 


    To stitch the images together the images were needed to be projected from a sphere onto a plane – a square of 1 million by 1 million pixels.


    Due to differences in exposure and simple juxtaposition of the color plates the resulting stitch had undesirable seams.  To clean up the image – the smoothing was accomplished by Distributed gradient-domain processing code from a collaboration between MSR (Hughes Hoppe) and JHU (Michael Kazhdan) – the paper appeared in ACM Transactions on Graphics (March 2010)


    Finally the resulting sky image was turned into a tiled multi-resolution pyramid.  Below you can see the differences in the old image and the newly released one.


    All of this large-scale data aggregation was solved with integrated set of Microsoft technologies:

    All of this was managed and coordinated by Project Trident: A Scientific Workflow Workbench

    Take a look at TeraPixel – enjoy the beauty of the images – and get lost in space. 

    Terapixel - Microsoft Research

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    New WorldWide Telescope Release–includes Martian experience WWT|Mars


    Today at the MSR Faculty Summit we released the latest version of WorldWide Telescope - the Apogee release.  Included in the release are two major features

    • TeraPixel – Worlds largest, smoothest seamless image of the sky
    • WWT|Mars – The Martian experience – collaboration with NASA to bring the HiRise imagery to WorldWide Telescope.  See info on NASA site as well…

    Also – with in the release there more cool features including Asteroid belt in the Solar System, mouse over images pop up in the view, and etc more…

    We’re really excited to share the new experiences with you – check it out and let me know what you think….

    WorldWide Telescope Provides Detailed Mars Exploration and Enhanced Night Sky Image

    Now you can use WorldWide Telescope (WWT) to explore the features of Mars as never before, thanks to the addition of more than 13,000 incredibly detailed images of Mars from various NASA spacecraft. Zoom in on the Red Planet and experience the Martian surface in unbelievably lifelike 3-D rendering, and learn more about our planetary neighbor with new interactive guided tours of Mars. And the enhancements to WWT don’t stop there. Now the WWT view of the night sky is even more amazing, with a seamless, high-resolution representation that smooths out the contours between discrete images. Gone are the visible “tiles” – those sharp edges where individual telescopic photos were combined to create the night sky panorama. This enhanced view, called the Terapixel sky image, provides an extraordinary sensation of panning the sky with the world’s most powerful telescope.

    WorldWide Telescope

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Relationship between Climate and the “breathing of the biosphere”


    Two international studies from the FLUXNET collaboration were published this week in Science. The papers  “Terrestrial Gross Carbon Dioxide Uptake: Global Distribution and Covariation with Climate” and “Global Convergence in the Temperature Sensitivity of Respiration at Ecosystem Level”  give us new understanding in the relationship between climate and the “breathing of the biosphere”. 

    The analyses suggest that from a global point of view, the availability of water may be more important than temperature for carbon fixation by plants. This result poses new questions about existing predictions of ecosystem changes, such as tropical forest decline, in response to temperature change.

    In most ecosystems, the rate of photosynthesis – plants breathing in – was observed to change relatively little with temperature. Similarly, the rate of respiration – plants breathing out – also increases relatively less with temperature than previously assumed. Researchers found that the rate at which plants and microorganisms convert sugar into carbon dioxide does not even double when the temperature increases by ten degrees from one week to the next.

    This smaller temperature dependence is the same all over the world – from tropical savannahs to forests in Finland. That is also in contradiction to previous work that suggested that temperature sensitivity was less in the tropics and temperate latitudes.

    Over 40 percent of the earth’s vegetative surface reacts very sensitively to changes in the amount of precipitation. This emphasizes the importance of water for continued food production. Other factors such as the slow transformations of carbon in the soil also appear to play crucial roles in long term carbon balances.

    The researchers analyzed sensor and field observations from 60 different FLUXNET sites as well as remote sensing, climate modeling, and other climate data. Like the biosphere, the FLUXNET dataset is a living breathing dataset. Scientists access and collectively maintain that dataset through a collaborative portal built by computer scientists at Microsoft Research, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and the University of Virginia. The ability to share data at this scale and diversity enables new insights and can reduce the uncertainty of existing model predictions.


    Fig. 1: Countless measurement stations (red) around the globe record the exchange of carbon dioxide and water in different ecosystems.

    Image: Ulrich Weber, MPI for Biogeochemistry

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    Overview of the New Windows Live Essentials: Windows Live Photo Gallery


    There are some really useful features in the new Windows Live Essentials preview – Paul’s blog posting on the new Windows Live Photo Gallery is spot on…Not only is the Facial recognition easy to use – but it’s fun looking at how family members faces/hair styles/etc change over time.  You can also create the perfect photo using Photo Fuse by taking parts of many different images and creating one image with all the best faces…

    The New Windows Live Essentials Windows Live Photo Gallery

    I've always been a fan of Windows Live Photo Gallery, and if I had to guess, this is likely the Essentials application that I use most often. It's always offered basic image editing capabilities--tools that are likely enough for about 95 percent of users--but in this new version, that functionality is dramatically expanded, as is the product's integration with other Windows Live products and services and, notably, with third party solutions as well. And if you're a Windows 7 user, Photo Gallery utilizes the underling Pictures library for image management, as it should.

    Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: The New Windows Live Essentials: Windows Live Photo Gallery

  • Dan on eScience & Technical Computing @ Microsoft

    King of Bing Maps Challenge - Contest Information



    Just heard from Chris Pendleton about the King of Bing Maps Contest

    Submit your Map App by July 25, 2010 to be entered to win:

    Grand Prize:
    Winner will get the royal treatment by receiving a $1,000 Bing Travel gift card and be celebrated as King of Bing Maps on the Bing Maps website and blog.

    2nd Prize:
    $500 Bing Travel gift card

    3rd Prize:
    $250 Bing Travel gift card

    BING MAPS PLATFORM - King of Bing Maps Challenge - Contest Information and Resources

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