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Hubble Releases First Post-Upgrade Images 129

Hynee writes "As tweeted, NASA has released 10 new images, all from the new WFC3 instrument and others, including the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. Images include NGC 6302, Carina Nebula, Stephan's Quintet, Markarian 817, Abell 370, and a few others. Great looking stuff, the WFC3 has twice the resolution of the WF/PC2, on the CCD at least, if memory serves correctly. Eta Carina is a fascinating object, and there are at least two releases in this 'Early Release Observations' set." Here is a video about the new images at Hubblesite.org, and a full HubbleSite.org release page with 56 images.
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Hubble Releases First Post-Upgrade Images

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  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @05:48PM (#29372269)
    I bet we've got a really smart person out there that knows the answer for this, for sure. I asked my professor and they really danced around and didn't give a straight answer (it was a community college).

    What about these brilliant colors we always see in the photographs? Are they touched up (I've read and NASA insists, "no, they're not")? Are they extrapolations based on the inferred composition of the gases in a nebula, for example? Or is it honest to goodness, if we were parked in a space ship a few million miles away, exactly what our eyes would register?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @05:50PM (#29372299)

    If anyone finds a link to side-by-side images from the old and new cameras, please post it!

  • by flghtmstr1 ( 1038678 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @05:59PM (#29372417)
    Has the "upgraded" Hubble taken any images of objects it previously imaged with its old sensors? I would be interested in a comparison.
  • by Rothron the Wise ( 171030 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @06:01PM (#29372459)
    Sometimes they are false colors, often they are not. However, a telescope is vastly larger than your eyes. They gather a lot more light, even considering how much the image has been magnified.

    I've watched the ring nebula through a 11 inch only to see it in black and white, yet fixed a camera to the very same telescope and gotten color pictures. There simply isn't enough light for my eyes to detect the color. Perhaps with an even larger telescope I could have.

    So no, the spectacular nebula might not even be visible to the human eye in your parked space ship, but you certainly could take a long exposure with a very sensitive camera and get awesome colors.

    The Orion nebula is large/close enough to be seen without any telescope, but too faint to see without.
  • by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:52PM (#29373429)

    I agree with you, but keep in mind that it hasn't been cheap. A lot of liberterian types probably don't like the Hubble's cost.

    The Hubble has cost at least 5-7 billion dollars now (http://www.spacetelescope.org/about/faq.html). It has directly led to 4,000+ papers (source: Wikipedia), and a lot of new discoveries. It is hard to quantify the value of the Hubble, but one way of putting it is the mean cost per academic paper is about 1.5 million dollars. Of course this is a terrible way of putting it, because the Hubble produces some awesome images. Also, many of those papers have had a big impact on several academic fields, and are highly cited.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:25PM (#29373699) Journal

    If you would park your space ship a few million miles then the picture would look entirely different, not just in the colours.

    I'll qualify this. Most nebula's would be rather dim to the human eye if viewed unaided even if up close. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to detect colors at low light levels, and thus most nebula's, or at least most parts of nebula's would look gray to us. However, if the light was concentrated via a telescope or special lens system, then we could see the colors. Whether these colors match what science-oriented filters of Hubble uses is another matter.

    Humans have a crappy color detection arrangment anyhow. Red and green are too close together spectrum-wise, and we cannot see into the near infrared and ultraviolet ranges. Most non-mammalian vertebrates have a better spacing of colors, including having 4 color cones instead of 3. Mammals got a raw deal, probably because existing mammals all evolved from small nocturnal creatures who relied on sound and smell more. In fact, most mammals only have 2 color cones. Primates later evolved a 3rd, probably to identify ripe fruit.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:39PM (#29374177) Homepage

    I've always wondered why we've spent so much money servicing the darn thing.

    Because we have to learn 'space mechanics' somewhere. Consider this - if we are to move the manned space program along to do any one of a number of impressive sounding things (Moon / Mars / Asteroids) we have to have an ability to do 'routine' repairs. Not everything is going to go according to plan.

    As we've found from the Hubble missions and the ISS servicing missions, this is pretty hard and requires enormous planning and training. The only way to make this more routine is to do it more often, do more of it and then repeat the process.

    Even if you're correct that it would be cheaper just to make a couple more than fix the stupid things, don't overlook the value in turning wrenches.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @11:06PM (#29374723)

    Bayer filters are patterned during the lithographic process. The monochrome version is a completely different part, one made in much smaller volume. Generally the only users of good quality monochrome CCD/CMOS sensors are scientific or machine vision users, much lower volume markets.

    Since you want a monochrome detector, you probably know about the problems with interpolating colors with a Bayer filter camera. The Foveon chip http://www.foveon.com/ was an attempt to get around this by having the R, G, B, sensitive pixels on separate layers so that all three colors were registered laterally. Neat concept, and would allow for good monochrome images as well. However, many were dissatisfied with the results. I seem to recall that they were noisy, had giant pixels/low pixel counts, and the color rendition was strange. I haven't looked at them in a few years, maybe they've solved the problems now.

  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday September 10, 2009 @02:16AM (#29375463)

    Shock and amaze the AMERICAN page for Hubble uses units most familiar to American readers.

    If you would prefer you could read its companion page the EUROPEAN page for hubble:

    http://www.spacetelescope.org/ [spacetelescope.org]

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Thursday September 10, 2009 @05:03AM (#29376123) Journal
    Filters on space telescopes are normally tuned to gather different emission spectra of certain atoms and molecules, the colour pictures are often combinations that show (say) red for hydrogen, green for oxygen and blue for nitrogen. Sometimes these spectra are visable to a human eye, sometimes there not. Astronomers do not "touch up" the colours but they often select an asthetically pleasing view of the data.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp