Space Studies Research Programs

Monthly Topic: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Join University faculty, graduates, and students as we explore space history, technology, astronomy, planetary geology, and exciting new space missions. Each month, a new topic will be selected and a short paper will be presented by a member of the APUS Space Studies Group. In addition to their insight, additional links will be provided to the reader for further investigation. So, buckle up and join us as we explore the vast wonders of Space.

          This month’s topic concerning the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) comes to us from Christine Arbizo. Christine is currently an undergraduate student at APUS and looking forward to her graduation in October of this year. Christine is currently the leader of team one for our APUS Super Nova Research program and a member of our Algae in Space research program. Furthermore, Christine is a NASA L'Space Academy Alumni, having recently completed the Mission Concept Academy (MCA) and NASA Proposal Writing Experience (NPWEE). This summer, she successfully participated in a NASA internship program working with the soon to be launched LUCY mission.

          The following is a short message from Christine detailing her internship experience:

          NASA’s Lucy Mission at Arizona State University where our team designed an analog IR instrument using given instrument requirements. As the software Engineer lead, I wrote the code for the instrument to move mechanically and to process the data received from the instrument.  I also developed skills in NX modeling, electronic prototyping, additive manufacturing, coding, and environmental testing that relate to space missions. Our team developed and completed presentations for each stage of the project, including a Preliminary Design Review, Critical design review and End Item Data Package.

          Christine is the mother of two great kids and married to her best friend. She enjoys camping, fishing, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her family and their dogs.

                                National Radio Astronomy Observatory


                                                Christine Arbizo

          With the increase availability of technology in the hands of astronomers, scientists, and researchers more resources for learning and creating captivating images are being made available to the public. These resources can help spark the imagination and passion of individuals who possess limited experience in astronomy while continuing to provide excellent resources for college students and professionals to investigate or examine images of objects in space.

One example of one of those fantastic resources is the Cosmic Coloring Compositor provided by National Radio Astronomy Observatory NRAO ( ).

          Below is an example of an image that can be created on the website. The target I selected is the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy. This galaxy was first discovered by Charles Messier in 1973 (NRAO , 2021). This beautiful galaxy is 31 million light years away from Earth (NRAO , 2021). This galaxy is a common target of seasoned astronomers and can be admired with backyard telescopes. I built the image in multiple steps, one by one using every source available on the National Radio Astronomy observatory website. I picked blue/green colors that seemed to complement one another to “color” the image.











          Using the powerful tools at the website, enables all levels of researchers to learn about and explore the various wavelengths of light as captured in the composite image above. These wavelengths, converted to the composite image are a combination of wavelengths found at the following telescopes:

  • Radio from the Very Large Array- the radio can analyze the radio emission of the Carbon Monoxide(CO) (NRAO , 2021)

  • Infrared from the Spitzer Space Telescope- captures the dust in the arms of the that is radiating the light it receives from the galaxy’s stars.

  • Visible from the Hubble Space Telescope- this is the light in the spectrum that is visible to humans.

  • Ultraviolet from the XMM-Newton Space Telescope

  • X-Ray From the Chandra X-Ray Observatory- The x-ray within the Whirlpool galaxy is remnants of gas that has been heated by supernova explosions (NASA, 2015).


          Another example of resources available to the public is from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to make your own radio image. 

          These are just two examples of how you can use art to explore and learn in the STEM field.



Works Cited

NASA. (2015). Messier 51 (M51). Cambridge: NASA.

NRAO . (2021, 08 12). Cosmic Coloring Compositor. Retrieved from National Radio Astronomy Observatory:

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