Explorable Microscopy is an open-source project from Carnegie Mellon University, working to develop software and hardware standards for the scientific application of ultra-high-resolution microscopic-scale digital panoramas of scientific specimens for preservation, forensics, and original research.

In the case of the photograph of the feather, we originally shot 8,000 photographs which took approximately 20 hours to acquire. Since the apparatus is automated, we only need to check the memory periodically and battery power during those 20 hours. The rest of the process for the feather took about 6-8 hours of labor, 18 hours of rendering time, and 8 hours of post-processing computations. This production time resulted in the feather image which has a resolution of over 6 gigapixels or 6,483 megapixels.

I got a chance to meet Gene Cooper and Rich Gibson (two of the project’s five major collaborators), together with helper Scott Van Note), at BAMF 2011, where they were showing off the prototype imaging robot shown here. It’s based on a small CNC milling platform from Probotix. More information is available on the Explorable Microscopy wiki.