Fantastic Science Art

Earlier I posted about Science Fantasy Art. Today it’s about fantastic science art, like the “Blue Marble” images of the Earth, and the Hubble images of space.

Blue Marble 2012 Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

Recently NASA released a new “Blue Marble 2012” image of the Earth. The image is not a single photograph of the Earth, but a composite, so it was constructed using several sweeps of satellite data which were then edited together to create this beautiful image of our home planet. On Science Friday you can watch a video about the making of the blue marble image.

Another example of fantastic science art is something like this:

Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula (M16): Pillars of Creation in a Star-Forming Region . Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

The beautiful images of nebulae and galaxies in space are also composite images, made by taking images in multiple wavelengths and adding colors. According to HubbleSite Behind the Pictures:

“Hubble images are made, not born. Images must be woven together from the incoming data from the cameras, cleaned up and given colors that bring out features that eyes would otherwise miss.”

The colors in such images are not what we would see with our eyes if we were able to fly there with a spaceship and take a look at these nebulae for ourselves. These actually begin as black-and-white images to which color has been added during processing. Color is used as a tool to enhance detail or help visualize what couldn’t be seen with the human eye, such as wavelengths outside the visual light spectrum, like x-ray or infrared. Such processing makes visible the invisible.

The image above of the Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula is from a region in our galaxy where stars are forming. You can read about the making of this image here. The following links will tell you even more about how these images are created:

So while some of these space images are not exactly what we would see with our eyes alone, there is some fantastic science and art put into them, making the invisible visible. It’s science! It’s art! It’s fantastic!

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