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Science News

How NASA Colorizes Hubble Images 18

addie writes "The Ottawa Citizen among others is running a story about how NASA determines what colors to paint their latest Hubble pictures. I'm personally happier looking at a dramatic doctored image, especially when the B&W originals are available."
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How NASA Colorizes Hubble Images

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  • CRAYONS!

    (rimshot)
  • by dimator ( 71399 )
    This is kind of a let-down... To think that the structures of the universe need PR-team doctoring to become (more) beautiful is kind of disappointing.

  • ... And so then my image person began to massage it. At first we had a green background. Then we changed it to blue -- that was too ethereal. The red seemed to be the punchiest," Mr. Villard said.

    ...

    "If you took a spaceship toward the Cone Nebula and you got close enough to see it, it would probably look mostly grey, just as the Orion Nebula does in a telescope. And if you got really close to it, it would get so diffuse you probably wouldn't even be aware that you were at it," says Terence Dickinson, editor of Sky News, Canada's popular astronomy magazine.

    This is just plain wrong - I feel duped. Maybe this is a bit of an overreaction, but it is basically scientific fraud, since the images are largely presented as depicting the actual appearance by eye. There is nothing wrong with using visual colors to depict non-visual phenomena, such as gamma rays, but it would be nice if this was clearly described. NASA barely labels the images as pseudocolored on their own site [stsci.edu] and not at all on the main page [stsci.edu], so you can't expect the popular press to get this right.

    • Re:Pseudocolor (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mgarraha ( 409436 )
      I've looked at several nebulas and galaxies through telescopes, and yes, they are all basically grey. I think there is value in enhancing even a visible-light image to highlight important structural details. For example, in the mostly green Hubble PR image [hubblesite.org] of the Eagle Nebula, they assigned the orange hydrogen-alpha emission line to the green channel so it would be easier to distinguish from the red sulfur ion emission line. Since conventional images [seds.org] of this nebula are typically orange, I wondered what the color mapping was. I agree that they should generally do a better job of explaining it, but I don't mind that they did it. Through a telescope I can't see the nebula at all, only the star cluster.
    • Re:Pseudocolor (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Angry Toad ( 314562 )

      If you took a spaceship toward the Cone Nebula and you got close enough to see it, it would probably look mostly grey

      Unless of course the pupil of your eye was several kilometers (or maybe just meters?) wide and your retina had a reasonably long exposure time. I suspect that the nebula would then come out in all the psychedelic colors we're used to.

      Since Hubble already extends our eyes into realms that it cannot penetrate naturally, I can't get too worked up about the color alterations. Any Hubble picture already beings with "Pretend your eye is in orbit, is really really big, and has sub-arcsecond resolution..."

      As far as our little monkey eyes go, just about everything in the universe is boring gray.

  • by -douggy ( 316782 ) on Monday May 13, 2002 @12:17PM (#3510498)
    They airbrush my porn

    Now they airbrush my science.

    My life is over

  • Does anyone have a link to the original image data? I respect the work of the image processing scientists, and I'd like to try my hand at it as well.
  • From the article:
    Since what's being represented is often energy that's not visible to the naked eye, there's choice in the colours used in digitally processing the various exposures

    Of COURSE they have to color the images! They're using the actual images from the telescope from different-color filters. It's okay that they color it, so we can see what's going on. Ultraviolet and infrared pictures (which we've all seen) are in black and white, but really that's just representation too, since we wouldn't be able to see the colors that were actually recorded. Do you really want to look at a picture that's emitting gamma-rays into your head, even if it WERE possible to set that up?

    See if you enjoy the following in-line UV image of my pet cat:













  • or did anyone else read the headline as colonizes? :-)
  • Hmmm I wonder if, on their quest to paint the universe they do it by numbers or they get some good artist, cash in hand hush hush P.S. space is really black right?

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