One of my favorite parts of galaxy images are all of the colors. Like how amazing is it that we live in such a beautiful universe? Well, unfortunately those colors we see aren’t actually there.
Probably the saddest news you’ll hear all day, yes, these images are artificially colored. I’ll explain.
Take a look at a nebula that most people are familiar with: The Cat Eye Nebula
One of the most captivating aspects of this image is the color. It looks like an eye. There colors are harmonious with the analogous combination of oranges, reds, and yellows. There blue thrown into the center to compliment the orange (blue and orange dance off of one another when put next to each other).
How NASA Produces Images From Space
NASA uses high power telescopes to capture information from space. Sometimes they can get a visual of what is out there but currently, NASA is exploring areas of our universe that are not even remotely close to us- light years away. So how is it possible to take a picture of the universe? They don’t.
The telescopes actually collect data from outer space. Scientists take the data and interpret it to be made into a visual. For example, they might be given information regarding what type of elements are in a new found galaxy, densities of the elements, and location of the elements. With this information, they are able to put together a map, if you will, of the data gathered. The map is the visual that we see.
However if it was just a map of data, how can we get a good understanding of what is actually out there? They add color. Colors indicate temperature, density, size, etc. The color is added simply to enhance understanding.
Why Is This On Arteresting?
I think there is something to be appreciated about images from outer space. They may not be a direct visual for what is actually out there, but the data is put together in a visually appealing way that helps the public understand the beyond.
This is why I have included this. A galaxy image has the ability to stop someone and make them stare and interpret what is in front of them, much like a painting would.
The colors are strategically chosen to not only enhance understanding but also to be aesthetically appealing.
If you want a more detailed, technical explanation, you can check out the NASA website. I have also included a link to an essay I wrote about it:
There is also plenty of information on this on the web. There are some citations at the end of the essay you can look at, as well.
All photos from NASA