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Space: Big, Mostly Empty, Peppered With Cool Stuff

Space! Brownies!

Yes, it’s time for more cool shots from CNN of space. Please hear the word “space” with an impressive echo in your head.

That pic up there is not, in fact, from the last batch of brownies I made but is instead from the rover Opportunity on Mars. It’s a combo of 276 exposures. Huge vistas of another planet = we’re living in the future. Nice.

They also have in this batch, a bunch of stuff from amateur astronomers. In fact, the title this week is “Amateur Astronomers Show Off.” Damn straight they do. They’ve got a great shot of Saturn and four of its moons taken by Richard Scott, who “used his 11-inch Schmidt Casagrain Telescope, mounted on a computerized German Equatorial Mount, and an Orion Star Shoot Deep Space Imager camera to capture this photo.” Jesus, I get lost sometimes in the remote control to my television. Show off is right. Geez.



  • The problem with amateurs’ or professional astronomers’ colored pix of celestial objects in deep space is that the coloration is artificial. Reproduced photos from the HST (Hubble) show flashy reds, greens, and blues emitting from galaxies, nebulas, and novas. But outer space, you know, is largely grey and white to our eyes with only tints of colors as perceived by our retina’s very narrow spectrum. This is why, for instance, radiotelescopy probes and “sees” much deeper into space than the HST since spectrographic signals lie outside the visible range. In my opinion, pop-sci publications and websites (and I include the ever PR-conscious NASA in this) that reproduce spectacular pix of celestial objects should explain to readers and viewers that the colors they reproduce and soup up are largely superimposed, at best are the result of telescopic filtering. Being candid and honest in this way is preferred, right?


  • Dr. Al: I agree…I do remember seeing those notations on a lot of space photos. Are you aware of a side by side comparison of actual photos vs. colorized photos? I’d be fascinated to see something like that. And I think I speak for most of us when we say that the colors are not the cool bit: the fact we’re getting pics of this stuff at all is what’s cool. But your point is well taken.