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Colorization of Mars Images? 784

ares2003 writes "There is no scientific reason, why JPL is colorizing Mars in that dull red tint as in their press release images. In the latest panorama image, there is a hint, that they deliberately altered the colors, as the blue and green spots on the color calibration target (the sundial) suddenly converted to bright red and brown. Source of original images: 1, 2 - (for highres replace "br" with "med"). At normal weather conditions, as we have at the moment, there should be a blue sky on Mars and earthlike colors. Furthermore the sky looks overcasted on the pictures as it cannot be considering the sharp shadows on the sundial. If the sky was overcast, then because of diffuse lighting, there would be no shadows. A few years ago, I did an investigation about that very same topic for the Viking and Pathfinder missions."
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Colorization of Mars Images?

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  • by FractusMan ( 711004 ) * on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:16PM (#7931124)
    Roses are Red Violets are Blue That's what they tell me Because I'm blind.
  • by shystershep ( 643874 ) * <bdshepherd@gm a i l . c om> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:16PM (#7931133) Homepage Journal
    For more hard-hitting 'information' from the submitter of this story, visit his website: Alternative Areology and Archeology []. Browse his conspiracy theories and check out his evidence of cities on Mars, spaceflight in ancient Indian Literature, and learn the secrets of the pyramids!

    Way to go, Michael.

    • He he (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bigjocker ( 113512 ) *
      The ammount of gibberish in the site!!!!

      Check the final paragraph of this page []
    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:19PM (#7931164) Journal
      Well, the truth is that NASA is well known for changing the colors in images. The spectacular images from Hubble are almost always in false (or exaggerated) color, though this is almost never acknowledged.
      • by MooCows ( 718367 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:21PM (#7931217)
        Actually, (AFAIK, IANAS, correct me if I'm wrong) the Hubble images are correct, but they're just using pretty colours to represent different kinds of radiation, not just the normal light.
        • by Xolotl ( 675282 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:49PM (#7932493) Journal
          This depends on which images. The famous Hubble image of the Orion nebula [] was colour corrected by Professor O'Dell [] of Rice University to match what he saw visually a long time ago through a veyr large telescope (possibly the Palomar 100-inch, but I can't remember), back in the days when you could still look through large telescopes. (In order to see colour you need a lot of light, which means either a very bright object or a very large telescope.)

          However, in general you are right, the colour corrections are arbitrary and don't match the "real" colours. Moreover, the brightness stretching and image processing often changes the colour in strange ways. There's a recent paper [] which discusses the problem and presents some solutions.

      • by GabeK ( 701376 ) * on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:22PM (#7931229) Homepage
        They do that so that different elements of the image can be more easily identified, not to make things prettier. It does make for some very impressive images, but that isn't the point.
        • by science_gone_bad ( 730182 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:49PM (#7931570)
          "They do that so that different elements of the image can be more easily identified"

          There's another even more important reason...most of the colors are for wavelengths of light that could not be seen anyway.

          The last time I checked I could not see UultraViolet, Infrared, or X-rays.

          Anyway, the color dots on the lander SHOULD look different as the lighting conditions are different on Mars due to the scattering properties of that atmosphere. Colors under Flourescent lights like we all sit under are very different than those out in the sunlight. If the images from Mars had the color corrected to pure colors, it would not be a true representation of what we would see if we were standing there.
          • by elendel ( 229983 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:51PM (#7932534)
            True, but the JPL images webpage [] has a couple pictures of the color calibrator [] while _on_ mars, clearly showing the blue and green.

            So the images are clearly color-doctored. Whether this is part of some grand martian conspiracy I leave as an exercise to the reader...
            • by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @09:33PM (#7934900)
              I watched a press meeting at NASA Tv []. Actually, the rover has 8 filters on each camera, with only a few in common (also, one of them is a sun filter, so the rover can figure out it's orientation and direct it's antenna to earth). The blue pigment on the sundial is specially selected because it also has a strong infrared signature. So if you watch the blue spot with the infrared filter, the "blue" spot turns out red. Another mistery solved.
      • by Royster ( 16042 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:30PM (#7931342) Homepage
        WHen Hubble uses false color, that fact is *always* noted at the official site. If other people use the images and drop NASA's text, they can't be held responsible.

        And, yes, NASA has to color correct just about every image one of their probes or landers takes. It's necessary because of now the images are taken. That ain't no cheap digital camera up there.
      • by djh101010 ( 656795 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:33PM (#7931392) Homepage Journal
        Actually, I was just at yesterday looking at archives of Nasa images, and not only is this explicitly mentioned, but for many of the false-color images, they specify the method by which they were constructed (shot thorough this filter, that filter, and the other filter, and recombined, that sort of thing).

        The scientists understand the real colors, the public (who funds it, after all) expects it to be red. They want red, we'll give 'em red. I'm not saying I agree with that, but I understand where they're coming from.

        The veracity of the person who brought this up (Mr. Martian Pyramids and such) isn't something I'll do much commenting on.
      • HST Images (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cynicalmoose ( 720691 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:38PM (#7931440) Homepage
        The .jpgs that NASA releases from the HST can't really be called 'false coloured' as they aren't the real data. Let me explain to those who don't spend their lives processing HST data.
        The data that comes off the HST is reserved for one year to the requesting individual/organisation (and, yes, this is controversial). But it is nothing like the images that NASA releases for the general public. The HST data comes down in a series of CCD output prints, often with whatever spectroscopy data has been requested, most often as a wavelength/intensity matrix. You can't dump that easily into any image editor; it's just a string of numbers. Equally if you dump all the spectra onto one image you will see a nearly black and white picture. So you select the spectra that interest you, and look for anomalies. The resulting pictures used are of little use to the non-astronomer - they aren't full colour, and are often just 4-bit colour showing intensity of a particular spectrum. The pretty pictures come from working out what looks good and combining it, so all images are 'false colour' in some way or another.

        I don't know about the Spirit mission, but I'd guess the same applied
        • Re:HST Images (Score:5, Informative)

          by mbrother ( 739193 ) <mbrother@uw[ ]edu ['yo.' in gap]> on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:35PM (#7932272) Homepage
          OK, I do spend part of my life processing HST Images (and Chandra images, VLA images, etc.). cynicalmoose is sort of on the right track but the explanation is muddled, confusing spectroscopy with imaging. HST takes no true color images as you would get with color film, for instance. Yes, images are digital with an array of numbers, but so what? An individual image is a simple intensity map *taken through a single color filter*. HST has a pile of filters, some colors like blue, red, etc., even infrared and ultraviolet (so you do need false color for these). Some are narrow-band filters centered on particular emission lines to pick out particular elemental emission (e.g., useful when studying nebulas). You can make a so-called "true-color" image by mixing together several of the individual images taken in different filters, and this can be pretty close to true. The emission-line filters high-light colors in a false but useful way. UV and IR do require false color (and Hubble cannot see X-rays). Sometimes "black and white" single-color images are rendered with a color map that permits subtle detail to be more easily seen (this is pretty common actually, and I have done it myself for press releases, since you rarely pick out filters for the creation of true-color images as there isn't a lot of science in that).
      • by overunderunderdone ( 521462 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:42PM (#7931481)
        I was watching a press conference on CSPAN and the guys at JPL actually brought this up themselves. The thing is the camera's have filters for a wide variety of wavelengths many of which aren't visual light at all. Each camera has a different array of filters and actually only share two filters in common for stereo vision.

        I got the impression that many of the fiters that ARE within the visual portion of the spectrum were only letting in narrow bands of the spectrum. Exactly what color SHOULD infra-red images be? For obvoius reasons keeping them in their "orignal" spectrum would be fairly useless - though "red" would be as close as we can come.

        For just pretty pictures rather than scientific data NASA is color-correcting the images - I think it is more involved than simply colorizing a black and white image. They mentioned compositing together several images from different filters to get a fair approximation of what the human eye would percieve if it was there.
        • They mentioned compositing together several images from different filters to get a fair approximation of what the human eye would percieve if it was there.

          That's just it. The camera captures separate images through various filters (possibly red, green, and blue), which are then merged back on earth to produce a color photo. With only a finite number of filters, this always involves some "color correction". The colored spots on the sundial act as a calibration guide for this process, since they have known

    • by efuseekay ( 138418 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:28PM (#7931304)
      There will be a new story on how the government conspire to shutdown the website on the 9th of Jan 2004....

      coincidentally after this story was posted.
    • by Spackler ( 223562 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:36PM (#7931413) Journal
      I am trying to do some serious research into the truth that has been hidden from my eyes. I finally find a source of hidden knowledge that is better than the one buried under the sphinx, and you geeks have to go and wreck it. _bastards_
    • by Orion442 ( 739483 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:45PM (#7931508)
      I apologize in advance...

      You failed to mention his proof of giant hair-like structures on Uranus.
    • There's no grammatical reason, why he keeps using commas in places that don't need them.

      It really, makes me stumble over his words.
  • by justanyone ( 308934 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#7931139) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't there be a red sky? All the dust in the atmosphere is heavily red-tinted due to iron content, by my understanding. Am I wrong? Anyone out there a planetary geologist or actually WORK for NASA?
    • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:22PM (#7931220) Journal
      With enough dust in the air, yes... Mars would have a red sky.

      But the same light refraction phenomenon that gives Earth a blue sky as seen from the ground should give Mars a blue sky as seen from the ground as well. Enough dust in the atmosphere could interfere with that sufficiently to create a red hue, but this should not be the norm in calm weather conditions.

      • The Earth's sky is blue because Nitrogen scatters blue light. Last I checked, there ain't a whole lot of Nitrogen in the Martian atmosphere.

        Mars' atmosphere is pinkish because of the dust suspended in it.
      • IANANE (N.A.S.A. engineer).

        This guy's web page provides the description ( :

        The color pictures from Mars Pathfinder are a spectacular reminder that the sky is not blue on Mars. Instead, it has colors that have been described as everything from "orange-pink" to "gray-tan", as was discovered in the 1970s by the Viking landers. This is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin and dusty, and atmospheric light scattering is dominated not by the molecules of

    • You are wrong. The sky's color comes mainly from the scattering of light, which has to do with the wavelength of light. That's why the sky is blue on virtually every planet.

      Check this panoramic photo [] (warning, 4.1 MB). Here's a small example [] of what it should look like to human eyes, without the stupid NASA red tint. See the rainbow around the sun ? It's because of ice in the upper atmosphere.
      • by UPAAntilles ( 693635 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:02PM (#7931711)
        No, the sky is blue on earth due to the exact conditions we have here. If our atmosphere was less dense, the sky would be darker (less diffused light). Our atmosphere is so dense and made up of the right stuff (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide) that our sky is actually violet. However, because our sun puts off more yellow and green light then any other colors, our eyes have adapted to seeing those colors better, and the sky appears to be "sky blue". As the atmosphere gets less dense, it shifts left on the EM scale (roygbiv), and gets darkers overall. As it gets more dense, it shifts left on the EM scale(that's why sunsets are red, the sunlight passes through more air at sunset and sunrise) It's actually very complex to determine what color a sky will be. It depends on these factors-
        Incoming light colors
        atmosphere make-up
        atmosphere density
        angle of incidence
        the eye of the observer

        That's why Mars has a butterscotch sky- very low density atmosphere made up almost entirely of CO2
  • by ChaoticChaos ( 603248 ) * <l3sr-v4cf AT spamex DOT com> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#7931143)
    I saw a picture of a martian family with placards reading, "Please send our daughter Carly back!"

    This explains her recent tech outbursts.
  • No Secret (Score:5, Informative)

    by eean ( 177028 ) <slashdot.monroe@nu> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:17PM (#7931144) Homepage
    Its no secret that they doctor the images for press release. They also have the original available. Check out Maestro, it was mentioned on Slashdot a few days ago, its almost the same software JPL uses, and the images in the data set are the original ones.
  • by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:18PM (#7931151) Homepage
    Not sure if this could be the reason but the MER-A pictures aren't taken at a specific time but rather during a whole day.

    That means that the colors you see on the sundial don't match all frames of the final picture you get.

    NASA therefore alters the colors to match the pictures as closely as possible. Maybe this disturbs the color? Not sure though. What do you think?

    • by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:28PM (#7931307)
      I live in an area where there are often dust storms for part of the year.

      That makes for a completely different light to that of a day overcast with clouds. generally clouds will completely remove distinct shadows, whereas red dust in the air will give an eerie dull appearance to the light, but keep much of the definition in shadows. Exactly like the mars image shows.

      The sky may look "overcasted" but anyone commenting that the cast from a dust storm is anything like that from an overcast cloudy day has rocks in their head. (martian or terran will do either way)
  • by Nevo ( 690791 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:18PM (#7931152)
    ..but releasing these images to the public is a public relations endeavor, not a scientific endeavor.
  • by BillFarber ( 641417 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:19PM (#7931176)
    The photos clearly have been doctored because they don't match the scenery in "Total Recall".
  • by CanSpice ( 300894 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:19PM (#7931178) Homepage
    They're modifying the colours because the spacecraft isn't actually on Mars, it's on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Or maybe Haleakala, where they did Lunar Rover testing. Either one, they're both pretty good places for faking either Moon or Mars landings.
  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:19PM (#7931179)
    OK, I admit it. I grabbed the mars probe on its way to orbit and put it in my backyard, where I put a bunch of sand and rocks and spray painted everything brown and drab red. Some got onto the lander, my screwup. Neil and Buzz came by and gave me some advice, based on how they faked the moon landing.

    My kids had lots of fun with those airbags, BTW.

  • by addie ( 470476 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:20PM (#7931182)
    All of the spectacular Hubble images that have been released over the past few years have been composites of various grayscale images each falsely-colored by whatever elements or wavelengths they represent. The result is a truly spectacular image that is accessible to people who have no interest in what the images actually show, but in just the beauty of the image itself. The exact same thing is true of the Spirit images.

    We here on Slashdot rant about NASA budgets, and lack of interest in a manned space program. The only way to increase public interest is by catching their attention. Grayscale images simply are not going to cut it. I see no problem at all in colorizing images if it means more viewers are going to be interested, and therefore want to learn more.

    Sure, the purist in me finds it a bit irritating, but as with many things, the pros far outweigh the cons.
  • Buy out. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:20PM (#7931185)
    You must have missed the news. Ted Turner bought out JPL yesterday.

  • My, God the submitter needs, to learn how to use commas, properly when he writes, something that hundreds of thousands of people will potentially, read...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:20PM (#7931197)
    It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

    Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

    Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

    Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.
  • Filters (Score:5, Informative)

    by paul248 ( 536459 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:21PM (#7931207) Homepage
    The images they took are shot through near-infrared filters, and then digitally adjusted to compensate. The pan-cams each have about 16 different types of filters on a rotating wheel, but this near-infrared filter is the only color that's common to both lenses. Therefore, when they're taking stereo images, that's the best one to use. It's not a conspiracy, and they'll probably release images taken through the other filters eventually.
    • Re:Filters (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:46PM (#7931526)
      I was looking to see a response like this, so I wouldn't post something similar.

      The MER-A people gave a very detailed account of the filters in yesterday's press conference, and of why the coloured spots on the calibration targets on the image from Mars really didn't appear to match up with the identical version they had in front of them.

      Apparently, they know the response to light of lots of different frequencies for each of the coloured tabs - the blue one, for instance, also reflects strongly in the near infra-red, which is why it appears bright red in the image from Mars and blue to human eyes. They know this, and calibrate accordingly - in fact, the blue target was chosen specifically for this behaviour.

      The rest of the colours in the image are as good an approximation to the real colours as they can get, based both on the calibration targets and on the results from other landers and from what astronomers can see with the naked eye through telescopes.

      And as I write this, I see that Jugulator has already posted something very similar, and which goes into more depth. Never mind, I'll submit this anyway. :-)
  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:21PM (#7931212) would be more likely that the public would realize that they're just filming this whole shebang out in the Utah desert.
  • Uh, yeah. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:23PM (#7931237)
    It's a conspiracy. To make people...


    Thanks for alerting us to that potential communist menace, senator.

  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#7931251) Journal
    as the blue and green spots on the color calibration target (the sundial) suddenly converted to bright red and brown.

    The "sudden" change happened as NASA "suddenly" applied another filter for the camera. They do this to better detect certain things in the picture I suppose. They spoke about it on a press conference when they was asked this question.

    From Mozilla guru Asa Dotzler's weblog []:

    Q. Then what we're seeing that's in that Pancam image doesn't correspond to what we'd see if we were standing there?

    Jim: we have a pair of red filters that give us stereo. The red you're asking about is the infrared filter which is different from the red humans see. We can convert that red easily. We also have a red filter that matches human sight red but we prefer to use the infrared filter to get matchup with both cameras. Two cameras each have 8 filters. One filter on one eye is a dense welder-like filter to look at the sun. On the left camera is low frequency and the right camera is higher frequencies. Total of 11 unique wavelengths.
  • by Eyah....TIMMY ( 642050 ) * on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:24PM (#7931261)
    Unfortunately, it seems the primary motivation for the Mars for the general population is now sensationalism. I'm sure the Slashdot audience how a different view on Mars though.
    USA Today has a good article [] about how Mars is shifting from science to politics.
    The Washington Post explains better the goals of the current US gov [].

    I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing because that's usually how space projects get more funding but it might explain why the photos are looking more "nice to the user" than "scientifically realistic".
  • by Delphix ( 571159 ) * on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:25PM (#7931271)
    They're probably using a blue filter to block Raleigh scattering. We do a lot of image processing, and it's common to use a blue filter in images where you want sharp detail and aren't as concerned about the proper color. Blue light tends to scatter more because of it's low wavelength. If you don't filter it you can end up with just a haze in your image where you'd otherwise have sharp detail in the image.

    So put the conspiracy theory to rest.
  • by legoleg ( 514805 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:28PM (#7931321)
    Read here []

    The sundial from a little while ago helps find tint and all. The pics need calibration.... doesn't sound like a conspiracy to me.
  • by banda ( 206438 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:32PM (#7931367)
    ...what I want to know is:
    Why does the Spirit rover [] have an Atari game console joystick installed on it?
  • What I'd like to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso ( 153703 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:33PM (#7931386) Homepage Journal
    What I want to see if Mars at night. Why can't they take a few pictures of what the two moons look like from the surface? They always take daytime pictures.
    • by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:42PM (#7931484)
      The Rovers are solar powered. Taking pictures would suck a lot of power from the batteries otherwise needed to make iti through the night.
    • by entrager ( 567758 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:57PM (#7931653)
      Possibly because they aren't actually visible from the surface. They are pretty dang small.

      For geek's sake:

      Our moon has an apparent size in the sky of about 1800 arcseconds. This is found by arctan(radius of the moon/distance to the moon) * 2 [].

      By comparison, Phobos would appear to be about 900 [] arcseconds from the surface of Mars. Deimos would be about 200 [] arcseconds.

      So actually Phobos would appear to be about half the diameter of our moon and Deimos would appear to be about 1/9 the diameter. I suppose that's not terribly small, but you also need to recognize that far less light will be hitting them and then reflecting off. Phobos would be much dimmer than our moon, and Deimos is dark in color, so it may not be easy to see even with the naked eye.

      I imagine capturing an image of the moons with the camera on board a rover would be difficult.
  • Mosaic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:34PM (#7931398)
    I don't know about the colors, but one thing that I did find odd is the obvious and clumsy seams between the component images of the mosaics. I used to work with satellite imagery back in the early 80's, and it was pretty routine to resample the images so that they fit together seamlessly. I wonder why JPL isn't bothering to do that? It's not rocket science, after all...
    • Re:Mosaic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:52PM (#7931603) Homepage Journal
      It's not
      rocket science, after all...
      Which is exactly the problem. Never send a rocket scientist to do an artist's job.
    • Re:Mosaic (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kindbud ( 90044 )
      It was a couple of weeks before they had produced re-sampled mosaics from the first Pathfinder images. The first release of those images were also hastily stitched together, and showed obvious seams. Give them a little time, they'll release corrected panoramas very soon, I think.
    • by rarose ( 36450 ) <.rob. .at.> on Friday January 09, 2004 @05:35PM (#7933088)
      It appears that due to limited downlink bandwidth (since the HGA isn't fully up yet) they've been making the mosaics from a mix of left and right camera images.
      Due to the different viewpoints (it looks likes they're a couple of feet apart) the mosaics have issues... but I suspect that once they downlink a full set of either left or right images the panorama will instantly get much much better.
  • by UPAAntilles ( 693635 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:40PM (#7931458)

    This story should be pulled, it is wrong in too many places, and is just a bunch of conspiracy mumbo-jumbo. The pictures are slightly modded for color, but that's because it's a collage

    As evidenced, here [], the Martian sky is more yellow/butterscotch (they used the Viking landers American flag to balance the colors properly,pictures are on the website). The Martian sky doesn't really get "overcasted" as there is no moisture in the air to create clouds! There is dust, yes, but the atmosphere is so thin, the sunlight can still go through it. Ares2003 has a few loose screws-My guess is that the digital image of the craft itself was taken later in the martian day, and modifying the color of the photo was the only way to make it look like it "fit in". Mars should not have "earth-like" colors. Any glance through a moderately-powerful telescope will show that the "red planet" is, in fact, red in color (iron oxide dust). Those more yellow pictures of Mars floating around are actually not real photographs, but generated images from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter data.

    To see lots of pictures and some scientific conjecture and analysis, you can go here []

  • by hqm ( 49964 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:42PM (#7931482)
    and apply auto level and color correction. It looks just like Arizona. Hey! It's a conspiracy!
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:43PM (#7931492) Homepage Journal
    I'm looking at a large high res panorama of mars right now. There's a nice silvery bit on the rover that is virtually untouched by any color alterations. I can see where they might have enhanced the saturation a little, but if they colorized it, they went through a hell of a lot of effort to do so. (i.e. cutting out the non-red objects, etc...)

    Sorry, not buying this story. Even if Nasa did colorize it, so what? I spent a day at a major news network once. I got to watch how they get their stories up. EVERY photo that goes up for a story is retouched. When I was there, there was a big story about a wildfire eating up a lot of land. They took some stock footage of a firefighter putting out a fire in the woods. Then, they highlighted the fire itself and used a tool to make it look brighter and hotter. (Note: This wasn't supposed to be a photo of the fire itself, but rather one of those illustrations that appears behind the news anchor as he announces the story..)

    The point? The reason they brightened the fire was to draw attention to the audience. Highlight the important elements of the scene. There's no crime or dishonest happening here. If Nasa boosted the saturation of their images to make their images more recognizable Mars, so what? Damn them for presenting their findings more clearly.
  • Get a clue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KilobyteKnight ( 91023 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:48PM (#7931549) Homepage
    Even basic research into the principles of photography would expose one to the fact that the camera doesn't see things the same way the eye does.

    Any colors captured on Mars are subject to various elements that would alter color. Such as different atmosphere than Earth, changing atmosphere during day, changing angle of light source, light reflected off surroundings. Even if calibrated against the sundial, changing the direction the camera is pointed will change things.

    Mars isn't exactly a controlled environment like a studio.
  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:48PM (#7931557) Homepage
    No device "sees" colors the way humans see color. Heck, no two humans see color the same way. All images, especially science images, whether they are photographic prints or digital images, are colorized and manipulated and stretched and bent and filtered and modified to enphasize the details the investigator is interested in.

    You think Jupiter is a really garish ball of swirling colorful gasses? Think again. All the Galileo and Voyager images have saturation boosted a great deal, and the contrast is stretched mightily. Furthermore, the luminance layer is deconvolved to bring subtle spatial details into sharper relief. To the human eye, Jupiter is a rather bland beige-ish ball with some hint of subtle color here and there, and not much obvious detail. The same goes for Io, which is usually depicted as a bright yellow/orange malestrom. It's "real" colors - what a human in orbit would see - are also rather bland.
  • by Punk Walrus ( 582794 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:59PM (#7931674) Journal
    Mars is very far away, and right now is moving away at a rapid speed from Earth in its orbit. The Doppler effect (the ones that make sounds go up in pitch as they approach you, then go down as they move away from you, like a police car going past) teaches us that as light approaches us, the wavelengths get compressed, and they go blue! So, Mars is red due to the Red Shift in spectrum because it's actually going away... away [Ernie-like snicker]

    ... oh, I can't go on. But there's so much misinformation in that site, that I thought I'd add my own bullshit that sounded scientific, too. Can I get my grant now? At least give me back my tin foil hat... Jodie Foster gave it to me!

    Conspiracy Theory Made E-Z:
    1. Assume people care enough about you to fool you.
    2. Add scientific terms and definitions to give credibility, even if it really doesn't have much to do with the theory
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    "Red shift shows increasing totalitarian domination of the outer reaches of the universe. Write your congressman!" - from Science Made Stupid

  • Here's how it works (Score:3, Informative)

    by starsong ( 624646 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:23PM (#7932090)
    This story pissed me off so much I almost had a seizure... it's complete unadulterated bullsh*t. Here's how it works: the two cameras on the rover are BLACK AND WHITE CAMERAS. They don't see color. They're not designed to see color. They take GRAYSCALE images, through a series of COLOR filters. So what NASA ends up with are a series of black and white images with little tags on them that say "600nm" or "700nm". To give you an impression as to what it would look like "to us", they convert the black and white images to solid color; e.g. the B&W photo with a "red" tag is now just different shades of red. They take a series of these "color-grayscale" images in different regions of the spectrum, overlay them, and voila... a full-color image.

    Once again.... THERE ARE NO "ORIGINAL" COLOR IMAGES, just black & whites shot through filter wheels. The best we can do is color transformations and approximations, to give you the best sense possible. As for the paranoid nonsense about the sundial/calibration target changing color, THAT'S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! What do you think a "calibration" target is??? You certainly wouldn't expect to see a bright blue spot if you looked at it through a red filter, would you? It will look different depending on what particular filters they used that day, and what color transforms they used to put it on the Internet.

    Lastly, that bullcr*p about how the "sky should be blue" is just that---bullcr*p. Mars has almost no atmosphere, and what there is is filled with reddish dust. In the first horizon image we got from Mars (Viking), which the poster referenced, they screwed up the color transformation... it looked too red to be real so they fiddled with the data to make it "look right" [1]. They admitted it right away and all subsequent, peer-reviewed images have shown the correct, reddish sky.

    [1] On Mars: Exploration of the Red Planet 1958-1978, p.384 (NASA History Series).
  • by slinted ( 374 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:31PM (#7932211)
    Seems like they're working pretty quick over at JPL to get the colorized version of the images out to the general public, since this week, they've been releasing them less between 6 and 18 hours after receiving them. But if you're not happy with their coloration, then I invite those among the slashdot community who know such things to do it themselves.

    The pan cam is black and white, and uses filters to pick out certain colors in the images it takes. If you want, you can read more about what filters are on which half of the pancam (l and r). There are 8 on a side, each with its own particular wavelength and bandpasses. The description of each as well as the numbering scheme is available from the Athena instruments website at Cornell University []

    The raw images are being freely distributed from the JPL MER website []. You'll notice camera (l or r) and filter (1-8) used is described from the naming of the pancam files (eg. 2P126471535EDN0000P2303L6M1.JPG)

    Just from this last days images, they have quite a few images in differant filters, of the color wheel itself, for calibration. For a better description of the filters themselves, and of the way they plan to (and have *BEGUN* to) calibrate the images, check out several [] differant [] publications []. (thanks to JPL-Gene and doug_ellison of #maestro for the links).

    I, for one, am thankful that they're releasing the raw data/images at all, considering the scale of the global-slashdotting currently going on. The speedy data turnaround, and amazing openness with which they are conducting this mission is really impressive compared to anything else of this scale. Thanks to everyone at JPL, Cornell, and NASA as a whole for all the incredible work from this meager enthusiast.
  • by valmont ( 3573 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:58PM (#7932623) Homepage Journal

    Holger Isenberg, the guy behind, is one of many [] kooks [] out there who are too ugly and interpersonally incompetent to ever hope to get laid in this life time. He must therefore resort to enclosing himself into his imaginary universe of in-bred conspiracy theories []. enjoy.

    NASA has always made raw data available to the public, which is what you can leverage thru the Maestro the software. The red tint observed in composite pictures made available to the public are, in fact, a fairly accurate representation of the truth []. Pictures MUST be composited to be available in a JPEG format Joe Six Pack can look at in his browser, hence some level of alteration is necessary. There is no lie. There is no conspiracy. Even your average Joe Six Pack can grok the fact that some basic alterations are necessary to represent flat images. Otherwise Joe Six Pack can always download Maestro.

  • by Ben Jackson ( 30284 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @06:11PM (#7933517) Homepage
    Several people have explained what's going on, and even quoted the press conference where this was discussed. One of the other points from that same press conference was that the pigments of the calibration target were carefully chosen so that each is useful for multiple filters. That sounds strange if you think about the pancams like a pocket digital, but they're not. They use a filter wheel, so each wavelength images all of the calibration target. By making each "color" on the target cover multiple wavelengths they get more information. I think the specific example was that the blue target shows up as bright white to the near-IR filter they were using. The result is that in the *composite* they are wacky colors, since the aggregate of the calibrations doesn't "make sense".

    In other exciting news, this morning they showed some of the mini-TES (thermal emission spectrometer) images. That data is very hard to interpret, so it is ripe for crackpot articles that can be posted on /. with no editorial review.
  • This is not true. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @10:32PM (#7935201)
    I worked (from MIT) with Viking Lander data, not camera data, but I followed all of this closely at the time and had lots of discussions with people at JPL about this and other topics.

    The Viking landers used a scanning (spot) camera, which was slow but which was also one of the first really good scientific cameras sent on a space probe. It was designed to provide a very repeatible color readout of what it saw, but, like most such cameras, was subject to drift, so color calibration targets were included on top of each lander.

    When Viking Lander 1 landed, the first color pictures released had a blue sky. These were done with the color balance adjusted "by eye" at JPL. When they had time to analyze the color targets, they released that they had made a mistake, and that the sky was red.

    I specifically remember hearing that they had adjusted the color balance in the first release image, and had to adjust it back to get true color.

    They had no reason to lie and were a little embarassed to have made the initial mistake.

    So I regard thiis article as being without merit.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @03:25AM (#7936341) Journal
    I grew up in Southern Africa at an altitutde of around 1500 meters (somewhere near 5000 feet) above sea level. I remember the sky of my childhood being a dark deep blue. Take a loof at the pictures taken at the top of K2 or everest, or even better, if you can find them, colour images of the X-15 experimental planes of the 60s. At that altitude where the X-15 is soon after launch, close to 30'000 meters (100'000 feet) the sky is almost black.

    That is, as most of know, because the very low air density at higher altitudes refracts far less light.

    The average surface air density on Mars is more or less the same as it is on Earth at 30'000 meters. That means that the sky on Mars will probably be almost black with a small band of colour on the horizon.

    That band of colour will be due to so called rayleigh scattering, by which air molecules scatter the light passing through them. Oxygen and Nitrogen on earth, being small molecules will scatter light of a smaller wavelength (blue) than on mars, where the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. The light thus produced on mars will be NOT be red and NOT be blue but somewhere in the middle (yellow/brown) as the larger carbon dioxide molecules will scatter light of larger wavelengths than on earth, but not enough to make the light seem red as that would require a gas of larger molecules such as methane or propane which, of course, is the main atmospheric component on Titan, saturns moon, and lo and behold, we get a deep orange light there.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin