Outer space and inner space

At first, it might seem as if humans’ desire to go into outer space is in competition with the idea that we should focus on exploring and benefiting from spaces on our own planet, such as our oceans. That’s probably true in a number of ways that are worth exploring in this blog. But there are also ways that space exploration benefits marine science. Here’s one from Scientific American.

Algorithms developed for identifying locations in images taken by the Hubbell Space Telescope can be adapted to identifying whale sharks.

Look at the distinctive pattern of stars in this nebula:

The core of the star cluster in the nebula NGC 3603 is shown in great detail in an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA, ESA

Well, each of the world’s largest sharks, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) has its own distinctive constellation of spots.

Whale shark from blog.utopiadivevillage.com

To conserve whale sharks, it’s important to know their movement patterns. Using this algorithm could be quite useful for identifying individual whale sharks to learn where they go.

Thank you Hubbell Space Telescope, NASA and ESA!

Elliott Norse, Founder and Chief Scientist, Marine Conservation Institute

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