How Scientists Accurately Colorize Hubble Telescope Images of Space

The Hubble telescope has provided us some of the greatest images of the observable universe we've ever seen, but they're black and white as standard. So how do scientists know what color to make them?

As someone who has been fascinated by space from an early age, taking photos of it once I knew how came soon after. Unfortunately for me, I live in a highly light polluted area, and every time I visit the wilderness of other countries, I'm not lucky with the skies unfortunately. However, when I have taken images, they are in color as they're just very basic forms of astrophotography. However, with NASA's Hubble telescope, the images aren't in color. So how do scientist know the correct colors to apply?

This video at the top of this article explain the complicated process of identifying wavelengths and the chemicals that make up what constitutes the image. Enjoy this captivating breakdown of how NASA approach the colorization of Hubble black and white images, and to learn more on the Hubble telescope, click here.

Lead image by NASA using the Hubble telescope, used under Creative Commons via Wikimedia.

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9 Comments

Ariel Martini's picture

Very nice video, but I guess you didn't understand what it is telling when you use the words "accurate" and "correct" to describe the colors they decide to use. The decision on the colors are well explained, but they are far from accurate.

michaeljin's picture

"Accurately"? Nope.

I know I'm not the only one but, I was really interested to find out about the subject but I'm NOT going to watch any more videos. I'm done! How about written articles or at least links to text articles.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Let’s face it. They could colour their images skybluepink with yellow dots and we couldn’t really prove them wrong, could we..

David Pavlich's picture

First, I haven't watched the video, but I used to do astroimaging. Even backyard imagers use the 'Hubble Pallet' when they colorize their images that are shot through Ha, OIII, and S2 filters. It helps researchers differentiate the different gases that make up much of the deep space object.

And I'll watch the video later. :-)

"Rises". That's an interesting proposition in this context.

What if the aliens manage to contact us and we want to deliberately send them "in the opposite" direction. How are we even going to explain the concept "left" and "right"? No, not the political interpretation, of course, although if you'd explain that, they would probably chose "the opposite" direction all by themselves...

Arthur Morgan's picture

This is an excellent video that shows how the colours in specific astronomic pictures are generated. These are indeed accurate colours since they represent important data in a consistent and tightly defined system. They would be bizarre if the colour data are taken as showing what human eyes would "see" if exposed to those space bodies and events, but the pictures are not being generated to show those.

EL PIC's picture

So .. it’s Accurate but still False Color ??

Arthur Morgan's picture

Accurate, not false. Different data shown.