Continuing my search for 15 APIs in 15 Days (also on GitHub), today I'm checking out another space-themed API - the HubbleSite API.

First though, two things to consider:

  • If you're unfamiliar with APIs, you might want to read this first to familiarize yourself.
  • Install Postman, which allows you to access API endpoints without having to write an app, as well as save the calls you make and sync them online.

What is HubbleSite?

When I stumbled across this API, I thought it might just be an amateur site, but it's more interesting than that. Here's a little about the Space Telescope Science Institute, maintainers of HubbleSite and this API (excerpted from their site):

Since its launch in 1990, we have performed the science operations for Hubble. We also contribute to other NASA missions and work with various international partners. Our staff conducts world-class scientific research, engineering, and mission support; our Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes holds and disseminates data from over 20 astronomical missions; and we bring science to the world through internationally recognized news, education, and public outreach programs.

Authorization

Obtaining an API (or authorization) token is a normal prereq for using most APIs, but there isn't one for the HubbleSite API. They perform some level of caching though, so I assume a brand new image or news article might not be available immediately.

Using the API

You can access all their news, images, and videos right through their website, but using the API to get a JSON response allows you to manipulate it as you'd like, perhaps to create a random "photo of the day" on your own site. (crediting the original source of course!)

Images

You can access images with a simple GET request to http://hubblesite.org/api/v3/images, but the API allows you to filter your results to a type of photo too - for example, "holiday_cards", "wallpaper", "spacecraft", "news", "printshop", "stsci_gallery", etc. I have absolutely no idea what they all mean and I don't see them defined, but there ya go...

Here's a request to get all spacecraft photos, for example:

GET http://hubblesite.org/api/v3/images?page=all&collection_name=spacecraft

The results include a handful of photos from the May 2009 repair/upgrade mission on the Hubble, which Astronaut Mike Massimino talked about in his book, Spaceman - if you haven't read that, by the way, I highly recommend it. He's very personable, and shows the human side of NASA.

[
    {
        "id": 3814,
        "name": "Grappling Hubble (2009)"
    },
    {
        "id": 3813,
        "name": "Bidding Hubble Farewell (2009)"
    },
    {
        "id": 3812,
        "name": "Hubble From Behind (2009)"
    },
    {
        "id": 3811,
        "name": "Installing Wide Field Camera 3 (2009)"
    },
    {
        "id": 3810,
        "name": "Final Release Over Earth (2009)"
    },
    ...
    ...
]

With the "id", you can get the details of a particular photo, along with several URLs for different sizes/formats, and then use that data for your own nefarious purposes. ;)

GET http://hubblesite.org/api/v3/image/3811
{
    "name": "Installing Wide Field Camera 3 (2009)",
    "description": "Astronaut Andrew Feustel, perched on the end of the robotic arm, helps to install the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) during a May 14, 2009, spacewalk to perform work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Wide Field Camera 3 is one of two new instruments installed during Servicing Mission 4, the fifth astronaut visit to Hubble.",
    "credits": "<a href=\"http://www.nasa.gov\">NASA</a>",
    "mission": "hubble",
    "collection": "spacecraft",
    "image_files": [
        {
            "file_url": "https://media.stsci.edu/uploads/image_file/image_attachment/29279/STScI-H-spacecraft27-title.pdf",
            "file_size": 4551893,
            "width": 792,
            "height": 612
        },
        {
            "file_url": "https://media.stsci.edu/uploads/image_file/image_attachment/29278/STScI-H-spacecraft27-title-3000x2400.jpg",
            "file_size": 1235602,
            "width": 3000,
            "height": 2400
        },
        {
            "file_url": "https://media.stsci.edu/uploads/image_file/image_attachment/29276/STScI-H-spacecraft27-3070x2036.jpg",
            "file_size": 3963387,
            "width": 3070,
            "height": 2036
        },
        {
            "file_url": "https://media.stsci.edu/uploads/image_file/image_attachment/29277/STScI-H-spacecraft27-3070x2036.tif",
            "file_size": 18797484,
            "width": 3070,
            "height": 2036
        }
    ]
}




Thoughts

Their documentation is an easy read. It shows you how to access their videos and news releases too, which is pretty much the same way as images. There's some space-related terms they built up into a dictionary too, but it's pretty small and seems of limited use, unless you used it to create a "term of the day" on your site or something.

Not much else to say. Today's was a small API (compared to some others), but it's awesome they put in the effort to make their data - photos, videos, etc - freely and easily accessible to anyone who can find a use for them!