How a Hubble image goes from photons to finished beauty

June 10, 2013 by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
Arp 274 is a trio of galaxies. They appear to be partially overlapping in this image, but may be located at different distances. Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

How does raw data from the Hubble Space Telescope end up to become a finished gorgeous color image, like the one of Arp 274, above? It's an interesting process, because the cameras on Hubble do not take color pictures.

The Hubble team released a video today showing the process of creating an image of Arp 274:

The video will load shortly

Color images from the spacecraft are assembled from separate black & white images taken through color filters. For one image, the spacecraft has to take three pictures, usually through a red, a green, and a blue filter and then each of those photos gets downlinked to Earth. They are then combined with software into a . This happens automatically inside off-the-shelf color cameras that we use here on Earth. But Hubble has almost 40 color filters ranging from ultraviolet ("bluer" than our eyes can see,) through the visible spectrum, to infrared ("redder" than what is visible to humans.) This gives the imaging teams infinitely more flexibility, allowing them to eke out whatever science information they are looking for, as well as, sometimes, allowing them to take a little artistic license.

Explore further: Hubble captures image of the Arp 274 group of galaxies

Related Stories

Hubble captures image of the Arp 274 group of galaxies

August 25, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679, is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances. The spiral shapes of two of these ...

Image: Saturn's Northern storm

November 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- This false-color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the tail of Saturn's huge northern storm. In mid-September 2004, the Cassini spacecraft chronicled a similar, but smaller, storm in the southern ...

Astrophoto: Beautiful new look at the Orion Nebula

March 28, 2013

The enormous cloud of dust and gas that makes up the Orion Nebula is featured in this beautiful astrophoto. This image was a joint effort, with images taken by Gary Gonnella – a regular on our Virtual Star Parties – and ...

A fresh take on the Horsehead Nebula

April 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —To celebrate its 23rd year in orbit, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has released a stunning new image of one of the most distinctive objects in our skies: the Horsehead Nebula. This image shows the nebula ...

Recommended for you

Rosetta captures comet outburst

August 25, 2016

In unprecedented observations made earlier this year, Rosetta unexpectedly captured a dramatic comet outburst that may have been triggered by a landslide.

Rocky planet found orbiting habitable zone of nearest star

August 24, 2016

An international team of astronomers including Carnegie's Paul Butler has found clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System. The new world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.