Picture of the Day: A Galactic Collision, in Gorgeous Technicolor

More
collide615.jpg

NASA

You may've seen this picture before. From the Hubble Legacy Archive, it captures one of the most stunning galactic collissions we've found: lower-right-in-the-picture NGC 4039's encounter with lower-left-in-the-picture NGC 4038. (The images are stunning, but not, alas, the names.) And here, too, the colors the organges and lavenders and reds of the image seem especially dramatic.

But why do we color certain images we get from space? And why do we choose those colors? Writing yesterday at io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell explained:

[A]ccurate information can't be shown any other way than with false colors. Astronomers observe visible light, sure, but they also look at ultraviolet, infrared, and radio waves, none of which can be seen by humans, but all of which can be translated into visible light. At first, these images are often rendered in black and white, but to make them both dramatic and clear, they're translated into color. This is hardly faking anything. Radio transmissions aren't any color, so making them look good in vivid colors isn't any more false than giving people a bland black and white image.

Below, recent Pictures of the Day:


Jump to comments
Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Ghost Trains of America

Can a band of locomotive experts save vintage railcars from ruin?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In