Image credits: Ved Chirayath, Earth photo courtesy NASA
HiMARC – A High-speed, Multispectral, Adaptive-Resolution CubeSat

HiMARC is an open-source small satellite based telescope I am developing for scientific imaging applications including Astronomy, Planetary science, Heliophysics and a number of Earth Sciences. The project is funded by people like you who purchase my fine-art photographs and products. Currently, it is in Phase I of development.

I started the project in February of 2012 with the intent to offer a low-cost, high-fidelity imaging platform for scientists. HiMARC uses a novel deployable optical configuration to offer resolution and light gathering ability beyond that of traditional CubeSat-based imagers.  In addition, I have been designing and testing two theoretical imaging technologies I developed called Fluid Lensing and DAPPER.

Development is currently divided into three phases, each aimed at accomplishing a scientific, hardware and software development goal. You can explore more about the project below and keep up to date with developments by signing up on the HiMARC mailing list and following my blog.

Team: Ved Chirayath, Ashish Goel, Vaibhav Kumar, Lorenzo Limonta, Brian Mahlstedt

Technical Overview: HiMARC presents a novel, low-cost solution that addresses the fundamental aperture limitation of telescopes and CubeSat-based imagers while providing rapid, multispectral, high-resolution imaging capabilities for celestial and terrestrial targets using an uncoordinated array of sparse-aperture optical telescopes. Three novel technological innovations and experimental data from ground testing form the basis of the HiMARC 3U CubeSat. Fluid Lensing (FL) is a hypothesis that suggests turbulent eddies in the upper atmosphere may be used as refracting elements to enhance telescope’s angular resolution for terrestrial imaging while potentially also tolerating the large collimation errors that typically plague sparse-aperture systems. Asymmetric Sparse-Aperture Deployable Optics (ASADO) provide over four times the signal and six times the aperture baseline of a typical 3U CubeSat telescope by using a folding telescope design. Deconvolution using Asymmetric odd-Parity Pupils for Enhanced Resolution (DAPPER) is a hypothesis that suggests an asymmetric optical train may provide high resolution imagery.

Through a ground-based optical telescope implementation of FL, I present encouraging experimental results and encouraging numerical results that suggest DAPPER might provide good optical performance for high-flux extended objects.

Stay tuned for upcoming scientific papers and tutorials by subscribing to the mailing list above.

Recent Updates & Blog Posts

November 2014 - This project has evolved into a Fluid Lensing based CubeSat mission, see Fluid Lensing for new updates

February 21, 2013 - New HiMARC website launch & mailing list

February 21, 2013 - HiMARC Ground Testing equipment list 

February 9-10, 2012 - Imaging trip to Williams Hill, extended object imaging tests

February 8, 2013 - HiMARC imagery features in my first solo-exhibition, Terrafirmament, at the Cantor Arts Museum's The Wall at Stanford University!

January 13-15, 2013 - HiMARC Imaging in Backyard, extended object imaging tests

Venus transit full disk panorama complete + UFO (someone lost a birthday gift is my guess) 

September 12, 2012 - HiMARC imagery features in Physics In Vogue exhibition piece Discoverer of Worlds with Dr. Natalie Batalha and NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

September 9, 2012 - relaunches with HiMARC blog and research page. Subscribe to RSS feed to keep updated!

September 1, 2012 - Image processing takes off on new equipment from NASA Ames MDD!

August 25-29 2012 - HiMARC imaging at Humboldt State Park - Ved shares the wonders of the cosmos with a black bear

August 15, 2012 - HiMARC team wins at SmallSat - Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship!

August 8, 2012 - HiMARC Progress Report 1

HiMARC imaging at Lassen National Park preview

Supermoon 2012

Project Timeline (updates pending)

Phase I - Ground-based High-resolution Solar Observatory, Fluid Lensing Testing (Summer 2014)

Venus Transit with HiMARC Atmospheric Lensing by Ved Chirayath Phase I of HiMARC is the development and implementation of a dedicated high-resolution hydrogen-alpha solar telescope. We hope to generate a near real-time image of the entire solar disk to complement data taken with NASA's new IRIS satellite launching sometime in May this year. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory already provides nearly every other bandpass in stunning detail and cadence, but we are trying to provide some useful h-alpha data for IRIS and show a proof of concept for Fluid Lensing (FL) and gain experience in developing automated systems for astronomical observation and image processing.

For this phase, we plan on using the same optical setup I used for the Venus Transit images, a 80mm Coronado single stack h-alpha telescope, but with 9 Point Grey Flea3 cameras operating at ~120 fps, 3.2 MP each and a small supercomputing cluster to process the data using lucky-imaging algorithms with some enhancements to test AL. The main task before us is implementing a lucky-imaging program in C++ to perform this computation efficiently and quickly.  I should note one of the main design drivers for the future HiMARC satellite is to try and implement a lucky-imaging system that can run on a relatively weak Intel Atom processor that is CubeSat compatible. 

Solar data will be collected for about 6hrs per day and we have about 14hrs to process that raw data and clear the hard drives for the next day's imaging. Each day, we expect to generate close to 16TB of data! The total project duration is only one month and will likely be based out of the Navajo Technical College in New Mexico which has some of the facilities needed already in place, motivated students to collaborate on the project, and is a great location for solar observing. Processed data will be uploaded and available for free to the public and scientists at


Reactive Reefs

Aerial Panorama testing

On a separate project, I am currently testing my Fluid Lensing hypothesis on subsurface targets in shallow water. In particular, I am looking at imaging coral reefs for health monitoring and species identification as part my Reactive Reefs exhibition. Reactive Reefs that is collaboration with a few Marine Biology labs at Stanford. Most of my work is underwater, creating some of the first gigapixel panoramas in a marine environment. Repurposing my plasma-actuated UAV, I would like to provide complementary aerial imagery. This is where I think a Fluid Lensing or really any lucky-imaging  solution may help in dealing with the waves and turbidity of ocean water. Stay tuned on the Reactive Reefs page to learn more and keep up-to-date on developments.


HiMARC RAW Data Archive - (uploading in progress)

Available for free! One of the things that would have been very helpful in the early stages of my research and this project is raw image data available online to try out various algorithms. Since many of you have requested the same, I thought I might upload raw HiMARC data for everyone to download here. Countless freezing cold nights and lots of elbow grease went in to capturing this data, so please credit me if you are going to use them and no complaining. There are over 10TB of RAW data, so bear with me as files come online and be patient with downloads! Instructions on how to access the files are in the gallery link below.

HiMARC RAW Data Archive




HiMARC Acknowledgements, Ved Chirayath

First and foremost, I am grateful to my academic advisors and mentors in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at Stanford University including Prof. Juan Alonso, Prof. Sigrid Close and Prof. Andrew Kalman for their oversight and motivation on the HiMARC project.  I am also thankful to the amazing folks at Oceanside Photo & Telescope, who have loaned a substantial amount of astronomy equipment to this project as well as Pumpkin, Inc. 

My colleagues Ashish Goel, Brian Mahlstedt, Lorenzo Limonta and Vaibhav Kumar helped with countless imaging sessions day and night, chasing solar eclipses with me and hauling instruments back and forth in inhospitable environments. Andrew Elmore has also been my constant companion, keeping spirits high and motivation strong even when all my equipment dews up and fails completely as well as ensuring I return in one piece from every expedition.

Lastly, my imaging research would not have been possible without the support of organizations listed at right and people like you who support my mission of sharing science and the natural world with the public by purchasing my prints and products.

Thank you!




Note - Opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of NASA or Stanford University. Unsubscribe from our newsletter here.