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This is how NASA processes the colors of its images – T3N – Pioneers of Digital

This is how NASA processes the colors of its images – T3N – Pioneers of Digital

Pillars of Creation Hubble Webb

Images of the “Pillars of Creation” by Hubble (left) and the Webb Telescope (right). (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI; JD Pascual, A. Quiquemore, A. Pagan)

The James Webb and Hubble images are fantastic, not least because of the glow in the colors. But in reality, NASA telescopes only send black and white images back to Earth. Take a look at the pseudo color pictures.

the “pillars of creation In the Mist of an Eagle – even Van Gogh could not have dreamed of it better. actually Hubble Enthusiastic science and the public with pictures of magical quasi-galaxies, and James Webb Telescope (JWST) Raising the bar since its launch in December 2021. At the same time, the LookAnd the ground from the baseto Almost part of everyday life: A dense network of satellites stretches across our planet and is an integral part of modern technology. However, there are always criticisms. After all, the worlds pictured are so colorful and amazing that things can hardly go wrong. or?

The truth is: With our human perception, we wouldn’t see phenomena like “cosmic cliffs” even if we were directly in the Carina Nebula itself. It’s black in space, at least to our limited eyesight. Technological miracles like Hubble and JWST as well as the many Earth orbiting satellites, On the other hand, you perceive significantly more and, above all, differently than a person could ever do. You provide knowledge of it Insightful collections of data for research and interpretation Plus heaps of breathtaking material – provided you know how to handle the transmitted data.


What are false color images?

The grass is green, the sea is blue, the ice at the North Pole is brilliant white – our visual perception defines the world as we know it. Anything that deviates from learned viewing habits is seen as fantastic or artistic at best, and classified as unrealistic at worst. In Photoshop times, Deepfake And Artificial intelligence to convert text into an image People quickly become suspicious.

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Satellite images that depict our usual reality often appear in a different color or even as if they fell into the paint bucket are wrong and unnatural to us, and therefore they are also considered False color photos specific. The same applies to the wonderful color photos of NASA– Telescopes from (to us) dark space. The colors in the recordings are just false colors: they show a different, much larger part of reality that is hidden from the human eye.

In this gallery you can see some of the most impressive faux color images:

20 powerful false-color images from NASA of Earth and Space

Perceiving Light: What Do James Webb, Hubble and Partners See?

Like humans, NASA’s technological marvels appear in succession Electromagnetic radiation TRUE. But while the spectrum biologically visible to the human eye is limited to a wavelength range of 380 to 780 nanometers, cameras from JWST, Hubble, and many satellites also record information outside of this narrow spectrum thanks to several built-in filters.

It is possible for telescopes and satellites to detect light waves of especially short wavelength ultraviolet– or especially the long wave Infraredto perceive the area. Objects in space, eg stars or gaseslight waves are mainly emitted in this region that is not visible to us, but with the help of Built-in camera filter Phenomena can be brought out of obscurity.

This is also the crucial difference between Hubble and its successor, James Webb: The latter may seem to outpace the NASA veteran, but the Hubble JWST is far ahead, especially when it comes to short-wave ultraviolet light. A high-performance telescope simply lacks appropriate filters for the short-wave spectrum – the filters built into it are designed mainly for long-wave radiation in the infrared range, and ultraviolet waves cannot pass through the filters. But it’s not bad The telescopes complement each other perfectly.

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Bringing color into play: This is how black and white NASA photos become color

In order for black and white photos to turn into color masterpieces, the photos must be processed. There’s no wild shift in the controls, however, because NASA’s handling follows solid scientific principles.

In order to transfer human color vision to an infrared image of the universe by James Webb, he single shots of different filters and merge them into one public registration put together. The image information is used through the short wave filters as a file blue channel If interpreted appropriately, long wavelength filters correspond to this red channelthe green channel There is between. In this way, NASA scientists can simulate the human eye’s color perception for regions outside the visible spectrum.

Satellite images are also processed by NASA using this method. The result is the so-called Normal color photos. They show the Earth as we know it and we might even see it with the naked eye if we were to hover several hundred kilometers above the planet in space. On the other hand, this processing method can also be used to generate “false color” images. This is primarily for scientific purposes.

In the Name of Science: The Cause of False Colors in NASA Images

When icy landscapes suddenly glow red and cosmic gas clouds glow in many colorful shades, it’s not about artistic freedom. Instead, the coloring should help science identify some phenomena and to highlight events And links To take advantage of.

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Using the NIRSpec spectrometer, Esa was able to measure deposits of gas forming around the black hole inside the Stephans Quintet. The instrument detected emissions at wavelengths that had not been measured before, and the coloration allows scientists to investigate the structures behind this phenomenon. (Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCL)

Coloring can, for example, provide information about The age of the star or molecular Formation of gas clouds Give. For example, in the Hubble telescope’s creation pillars, blue represents high levels of oxygen, red represents sulfur, and green regions indicate nitrogen and hydrogen. Of course, the coloring can also be different – this depends not only on the scientific purpose pursued but also on the filters used for the recording. Depending on the amount of information, the displayed colors can sometimes shift and deviate from the basic red, green, and blue principle.

Each element emits a specific wavelength pattern of visible light. Astronomers can analyze these patterns and make statements about the nature of the element. (Image: NASA, STScI)

In satellite images, false colors can also be used structure of the area to be examined. Also comments about Temperature And nature area or body of water possible. The basis for this procedure is Spectral analysis, which studies the spectrum of light emitted by objects, surfaces, light sources, and matter. resolve to it A barcode-like pattern Provide NASA researchers with information on the composition of the investigated phenomena. For example, the spectral signature of ice is red, so is the false-color image of the North Pole still wrong? Well, that’s probably ultimately a matter of literal opinion…