Which Are The Real Pictures of Space? What’s a Photo and What’s An Illustration?

Which Are The Real Pictures of Space? What’s a Photo and What’s An Illustration?


With modern computer graphics, it’s sometimes
hard to know which is an actual photograph of space, and what’s an illustration or
a 3D rendering. Some really fascinating discoveries don’t
have a pretty picture to go along with them, so illustrations are created to help us understand. Astronomers are pretty lucky. Their scientific work happens to produce some
of the most beautiful and iconic images in all of science. Here’s the famous Pillars of Creation, taken
by the Hubble Space Telescope, or the Helix Nebula. Here are the rings of Saturn, captured by
Cassini. Amazing. Beautiful to look at, but more importantly,
they have a scientific purpose for researchers. Now let’s take a look at some other images
to go along with recent discoveries in space and astronomy. First, here are the 7 Earth-sized worlds discovered
in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Of course, that’s a computer illustration. Here’s the actual data. And remember the recent collision between
neutron stars that generated a kilonova explosion, where both gravitational waves and electromagnetic
radiation were detected here on Earth? Here’s the chirp LIGO heard in gravitational
waves. Here’s the view in visible light. Need help finding it? It’s right… there. If you want to explain what’s going on to
the public, you’ll need to provide images and illustrations. In some cases you can use the raw photographs
themselves, other times you need to do some processing on the images, and sometimes you
have to create illustrations based on the story the data is telling. Which one is which, and how can you know? The reality is that almost every astronomical
image you’ve ever seen has been processed to some extent. Actually, you could say the same thing for
almost every picture ever, but I digress. But let me give you some examples. Unlike your phone camera, which can capture
images in full color, almost all astronomical telescopes are equipped with a black-and-white
CCD. That’s great for image quality, but less,
uh, pretty. Astronomers then use filters, which block
the light from large parts of the spectrum, isolating exactly what they want to look at. If you want to see certain kinds activity
on the Sun, for example, or the light from emission nebulae, you use a hydrogen alpha
filter. This only lets photons of light in that match
656.28 nanometers. Here’s what the Sun looks like with regular
visible light, and here’s what it looks like with the hydrogen alpha filter. You can see how the hydrogen alpha version
lets you see coronal loops and other activities on the Sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory has many
other filters it can use, at different wavelengths from visible to ultraviolet. This picture, for example, shows the Sun using
a filter for 211 angstroms, which corresponds to the emissions of Iron-14 at 2 million kelvin. They color these images purple it’s easy
to know at a glance which filter you’re looking at. The Hubble Space Telescope is equipped with
80 different filters that astronomers can choose from when they book time on the telescope. A certain number of hours with this filter,
and then a certain number of hours with that filter. Then all the data is downloaded in a special
image format called FITS, which stands for the Flexible Image Transport System. It’s useful for astronomers because it contains
additional metadata about the image that astronomers need. So, when you see a photograph of some object
taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, you’re seeing the scientific data which has then
merged together in Photoshop in an artistic manner. The scientific data is real, but an artist
made an arbitrary decision to assign red to the hydrogen alpha filter and then blue to
oxygen and green to sodium. They should have just as easily switched those
colors around, or used different colors entirely. And chances are, a scientist was never involved
in this process. They’re happy with the raw black-and-white
FITS files. Here’s a recent picture of a supermassive
black hole in the galaxy SDSS J1354+1327. This image is actually made up of images captured
by separate space telescopes. Red comes from one of Hubble’s infrared
filters. Green and blue come from ultraviolet filters,
and pink comes from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, to show the excited regions around a black
hole. Unless you have some kind of superpowers,
your eyes can’t see infrared, ultraviolet or X-rays. Sometimes there’s raw data, but an artist
or illustrator will use that to create an artist’s conception of what that is. Almost all the images of black holes you’ve
ever seen were created by artists. For example, when you see this kind of image
showing the distortion of a black hole against background stars, that’s an illustration. Someone with a knowledge of physics has simulated
the gravity distorting effects of a black hole event horizon. It’s scientifically accurate, but it’s
an illustration. Here’s an actual image of the region around
the center of the Milky Way, which contains the our supermassive black hole. You can see this bright region where stars
are compacted incredibly close together and the light echoes from radiation blasted out
into space. That’s in X-rays from the Chandra Observatory
again. This one’s pretty tricky though, it looks
like a photograph but it’s actually an illustration based on scientific data captured by the Herschel
Space Telescope. Here’s what it really looks like. In the next couple of months, we’re going
to see the first images from the Event Horizon Telescope, which used a worldwide network
of radio telescopes to take the first ever image of the event horizon around the supermassive
black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. It’s going to be scientifically fascinating,
but it’ll probably just look like a blob. So, prepare yourself emotionally for that. In a second I’m going to show you some amazing
examples of how skilled artists can work with this scientific data to create amazing images,
but first I’d like to thank: Sre Harsha Remella
Josh Susser Ken Hurst
Larry Beckham Neuterdude
Dylan O’Donnell Rob Jones
Matthew Stewart Android Virgil 21 And the rest of our 807 patrons for their
generous support. If you love what we’re doing and want to
get in on the action, head over to patreon.com/universetoday. Some of my favorite space images are a blend
between scientific data and artistic ability. And one of the greatest examples of this is
the torrent of data coming back from NASA’s Juno spacecraft currently at Jupiter. When NASA was originally building the spacecraft,
they didn’t feel it was necessary to include a visible light camera. Which, I know, sounds crazy. But wise people encouraged them to include
a visible instrument: JunoCam, to allow the public to see what’s happening at Jupiter,
and to get involved in reviewing and processing images from the raw data. All the data from JunoCam is uploaded directly
to the internet, and citizen scientists and artists have access to this data to create
their own images however they like. First, I’d like to show you what the raw
data looks like, sent back from JunoCam. It has a CCD sensor with a resolution of 1600
x 1200 pixels with a 58 degree field of view. It has 4 different filters that it takes pictures
with: red, green, blue and methane. Citizen scientists can then take these raw
images, bring them into Photoshop and mix and match to create photographs like this
or this. This is the work of one of my favorite citizen
scientists, Kevin Gill. And I want to show you another series of images
he’s working on. This is the Western Rim of the Palikir Crater
on Mars. But this isn’t real, it’s actually a 3D
rendering of the surface of Mars made by Kevin to show you what it would look like to be
standing on Mars. But Kevin based this rendering on data from
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. There’s a dark side to internet imagery:
fakes and misrepresentations. When anyone posts an image to the internet,
I think it’s really important to provide credits and sources, so people can follow
back to find out where an image came from. But after big events, like eclipses and meteors,
we see a lot of fakes. For example, check out this amazing video
of a huge meteor burning up in the atmosphere. I see this posted to Twitter every time there’s
a big fireball sighting. Except it’s not a meteor, it’s a video
of the European Space Agency’s Jules Verne cargo ship burning up in the atmosphere a
few years ago. Sometimes an artist creates an image and then
other people repost it without permission putting it out of context, and sometimes people
post deliberately fake images for trolling or, I don’t know… reasons? One of my favorite Twitter feeds is Fake Astropix,
which debunks space pictures and videos on a regular basis. You’ll learn so much from this account. I absolutely love looking at pictures of space. But when I do, I take second to make sure
I understand what I’m looking at. Whether it’s a true color image of space,
a composite image based on real scientific data, or an artist’s illustration. Each of these has their place, whether it’s
to show the public what’s actually being seen out there or to help them understand
the significance of the discoveries. It’s this partnership between space agencies
and the public that I’m so excited about. Every time there’s a mission, we see these
amazing pictures coming back. Beautiful to look at, but based on real scientific
data. If you have any skills in this area, and want
to get involved, I’ll put some links in the show notes so you can find out more. Ask for Comments:
How do you feel about the role of photographs and illustrations for helping to communicate
the results of astronomy and space exploration to the public? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Once a week I gather up all my space news
into a single email newsletter and send it out. It’s got pictures, brief highlights about
the story, and links so you can find out more. Go to universetoday.com/newsletter to sign
up. And finally, here’s a playlist.

100 thoughts on “Which Are The Real Pictures of Space? What’s a Photo and What’s An Illustration?”

  1. so have they ever sent a satellite to other planets that can take high resolution color pictures like google can with google earth?

  2. I once thought colonizing another planet would be kinda cool, until I realized I would probably need to become a vegan. Would it be plausible to have a space farm, on say the moon, that not only grows fruits and vegetables but also animal products? Chickens, goats, pigs, etc.

  3. If Einstein was alive today do you think he'd be pleased or disappointed with our Scientific and Cosmological progression. Or do you believe the theory he was a time traveller and knew everything anyway? (that smirk tho) 😊

  4. All scientific pictures should have meta data explaining what we are looking at, then when the picture is shared, we at least can find out if it's real, enhanced or an artists interpretation.
    Great video, even if it's all CGI. 🙂

  5. Thank you for covering this topic. As an avid amateur science enthusiast it has long bothered me when news organizations don’t add that simple little phrase “as shown here in an artists rendering” to their news stories and pass off something that others who know even a little more know right away isn’t real scientific data. Also thank you for pointing out how there is no such thing really as a “real” image so long as it’s not actually a rendered animation. This depends on what “eyes” you are using to “see” as our own human eyes are limited to a sadly narrow range of the EM spectrum. Let me just finish by adding that also as an amateur photographer, artists should be able to understand this idea too. When I capture an image for artistic purposes I’m not capturing what my own eye sees, if I open up the aperture to narrow the depth of field for a portrait, blurring out the background, what I get is decidedly not what my own eye sees. So in many ways the public is used to seeing images taken by cameras without even photoshop involved that don’t represent what they can see, they are just so used to it they don’t think about it.

  6. Frasier, I am tracking Chinese Tiangong 1 Space Station that is supposed to reenter earth's atmosphere soon. The tracking site I use gives location, including it's altitude. What altitude will it be at to start burning and breaking up? Thanks. I hope it comes in close enough for me to see… but not TOO close. Oh, and how far away, maximum, would I be able to see the reentry from?

  7. In reality the Universe is almost completely pitch black. Every photo you see of far off stars even in our own galaxy take hours to months of light to collect. The vast majority of stars are red dwarfs, including Proxima Centauri the nearest star to our Sun…we can't even see it cause it's too dim.

  8. I still want NASA to spend a few bucks and the extra couple pounds so that they can do selfies on their missions.

  9. This is incredibly relevant for my studies right now, and it's a big help illustrating my paper. Tremendous work as always, and I thank you.

    My question, unrelated, is why are most asteroids in our solar system potato-shaped at a 3:1 ratio? Why don't we see more 'Oumuamua-shaped?

  10. Im asking bc I have no idea. Is it impossible for NASA to strap a regular camera on a satellite to take a normal pic of a planet?

  11. Those photos/images of space and the diverse objects in it are one of the most beautiful things to look at and dream about; the only reservation i have is the person who uploades them should provide the origins and programs which were used to get them. This also prevents those space LUNAtics/deniers from getting any argument about them (the photos) being ‘fake’.
    Great content; you got yourself a new subscriber.

    Edit: why is it that – every time i look at the pillars of creation – a tear up? This nebula/birthplace of stars touches my very core…

  12. What fascinate me are not these souped up images from Hubble and the like but what you can get from a DSLR and a 300mm lens with good tracking and many longish exposures. Processing is a must, to get the color, detail out of the 'hidden' information in the raw files. Seeing M101 and M51 photos from such earthly cameras is actually more inspiring because it is actually attainable.

  13. You make awesome videos but why you have very less subscriber…..I think you must have more subscribers ..🙁😉😁

  14. Scholtz's star is back in the news. If it grazed the solar system 70,000 years ago, is this an alternate explanation of the perturbed orbits of objects that suggest Planet 9? Maybe I'm confusing two totally unrelated things?

  15. Science question time. Would a close pass by a high mass object deform the shape a black hole? A tidal effect, so to speak?

  16. I've been hooked on space since the Mercury missions (yeah, I'm that old 🙁 ). Left to my own devices I'd have images like these on every wall in the house. Another nice job. Thank you.

  17. If I had a Space Plane and I would want to visit some Gas Giants with it, How deep into the Atmosphere can I go? With high orbital speed, high winds, High pressure(deep down at least), the sound barrier and high Gravity?
    The wind should work to my benefit since I am slower(relatively speaking) in one direction –> less drag

    Obviously the "How deep can I go" question depends on the material and structure of the Plane, but with current tech, how deep can we go, and come back up unharmed?
    Thank you for your time Fraser. 🙂

  18. So what would we be able to see if we actually get close to any of these objects like galaxies, nebula or even gas giants? Will there be any color visible to the naked human eye? Or everything will just appear as grey or white?

  19. What is he saying at 1:14 – 1:16? He is showing us something but I cant figure out what he is saying?
    Heres a viza-view light?

  20. Planets like Mercury have high temperature variations between day & night. How far does a (tidally locked) planet has to be, so that the fluctuation is minimal (like 10 K). This planet wouldn't have an atmosphere or Ocean to transfer that heat, like Venus or Earth. (To make it easier)
    And how do you calculate something like that, including variables like distance, CMB, Albedo, Core Temp.(Maybe even Atmosphere, Ocean, conductivity)?

    I couldn't find anything about that online, sorry to bother you again :p and Thanks

  21. Will the Event Horizon telescope by able to see young Lawrence Fishburn from the past? (And lots of fake blood?)

  22. even astronomers use different colored filters to bring out detail of what they are looking at or want to see otherwise it can be just a smudge of light. i always loved to look at the artist renditions and cgi cause they bring out all the detail. i am thinking of getting a dob newtonian 12" and see for my self the wonders that are out there in the distance…

  23. This is why I watch you all of your shows. The info is legitimate. You are one of the best journalists I have seen in 40 years of working in Broadcasting news. As we called it back- in- the- day, ENG.( Electric News Gathering.) I know you are doing interviews as part of you weekly hang out. I would like to see you do the interviews in a news book form like 60 minutes or 20/20. The last interview took up more than half of the news portion and limited the discussion between your co-hosts. Having guest co-hosts adds so much more. I think you are coming to the point where you need to add a producer. The WHS Crew do a great job, but their time is limited. And could you ask Karla if you could use a kicker light for your office? Keep up the great work.

  24. You do understand that the instant you admit that anything at all was done to a picture, the retards will start to scream that this is proof the whole thing is fake, don't you?

  25. Could a meteor rich in gold ore (or any other valious metal) hit Earth? What would happen? Would it burn up on the atmosphere and eventually rain on the surface or something else?

  26. i understand how it makes sense to use false colors to mark intensity of a specific wavelength. yet.. does it mean none of these colorfully pictured nebulas really glow in ruby-red or heavenly aquamarine?

  27. I'd like to see a video showing various objects observed in the universe as they would actually appear in visible light, as we would see them with the naked eye (if at all). Frustrates me sometimes to hear about a photo from a Mars rover being color-corrected upon release. I understand why photos in that case are altered so that scientists themselves can more quickly and easily assess the composition of the soil/rocks/terrain, but why not also release the 'raw' photos with the salmon colored sky and tint to everything? As a layman, I want to see what I would actually see if I were standing there.

  28. After all that I couldn't tell what was what in the last set of pictures except if it just had a name I figured that was an artist. FAIL!

  29. From the Moon is the Earth really Blue???
    Are the colors correct??? Those planets and stars are in the visible color spectrum, right???
    If you were standing on Mars would it be orange, red, or Black dirt???

  30. 4:05 Wtf man wearing headphones freaked me out I thought there was a dying mouse going apeshit in a vent in my room or something till i realized it was the voiceover

  31. its usefull for them but its shit for us because we cant see the real true colour of the galaxy..no one has seen,record videos of the real black hole..its just an illustration..love your vids..your honest..

  32. For me its fine if its an illustration as long as that is what i would ACTUALLY SEE with my human eyes if i was standing/floating in front of it. I think thats probably what most people are wanting to see

  33. To antiscience flattards & AGW deniers & space deniers: our eyes already filter our wavelengths. So, even with no modification to a photograph, our eyes are already being selective in what they want to see.

  34. You know until flat earth mania, I thought all these and other pictures of space were real pictures smh and I'm sure a lot of other people did as well, am I fool for believing that? Because it sure feels like it.

  35. it always bugs me when they show an image that is clearly fake without "artist rendering" underneath. Even NASA is guilty of it. (Let alone network channel programs.)

  36. it sure is amazing and I mean over the top amazing, good luck on your journey space dwellers but you will never get there.

  37. So basically nothing we see about Space is really official in that sense they going off of data on how it would look instead of how it actually looks. hmmm so everything we came to know is a lie.

  38. Obviously beautiful (scientifically accurate (theoretically/factually accurate?)) images of space are great. But I'd like to know that they are that (please,) and would much rather see the truth (or true photo) rather than a pretty representation of it.

  39. Space does not exist.
    We can not leave this place.
    Forget what you have been told and open your eyes and mind.
    Start thinking for yourself.
    Wake up my friends.
    There is so much to learn.
    Sounds crazy…i know.
    You do not have to tell me that i am stupid….i have heard it before.
    Do your own research.
    Then decide.

  40. I want to know how would all these nebulas look like with your own eyes?? would you see colour or would they just be black?

  41. If there are 250 billion stars in our galaxy how can we see other galaxies? Wouldn't the light over whelm our ability to see other galaxies? (just curious )
    Look how bright our sun is and apparantly its not a really big star, of course we are very close to it but 250 billion stars? Can anyone identify 1 billion things now 250 billion things?
    Wouldn't it take you 31 years to just count to a billion?
    That means it would take 7750 years to count all of the stars in our milky way
    Maybe some one here can school me on that

  42. It’s really sad just how bad the flatties’ ability to comprehend information is. But, I guess that’s an inherent flatly quality. If they could watch the video and understand the info…then they wouldn’t be flatties.

  43. in two words, and of course many of us knew… the images are in fact….CGI(computer generated artists impressions) so we have .0000 (zero) photos of space

  44. So the Pillar of Creation is an actual picture? Or an artist rendering from raw data? Or a colored black and white picture?

  45. So, to get a real actual photo of another planet or of the Earth, you would have to send a space probe to close proximity, take the photographs then head back to Earth, parachute down, then collect the photographs from the returned space craft ?………Is that correct ? You can't send a video through space as we send and receive pictures by TV or the internet here on Earth ? Everything we see now from space is interpreted data ?

  46. I can think of another reason they began this type of illustrations and alike…..How else would they have ever gotten the public on board with blowing all those tax dollars ?…….Shows like Star Trek and others obviously whet the appetite for more knowledge about space, and of course they couldn't just show it as it is….that would have only inspired the people who seriously study it………..Having had the help of Hollywood to make 'the Final Frontier' seem possible to us, with talk of faster than light travel, and people spending unlimited time in space and so on, they were able to get the public excited enough, not to mind spending millions, if not billions every decade, seemingly just to satisfy certain peoples curiosity and arrogance, by making humans seem demi-god like, in this pursuit……I have never been able to comprehend anything other than the satellites in orbit, being something which became necessary because of the cold war and subsequent space race…….But we mustn't forget that Americans, for the most part, are not interested in giving the red, white and blue, a black eye……….Ignorance seems the order of the day…..

  47. so, if the images we get from a telescope are in black and white.. why is the moon landing in partial colour? wouldnt technology have advanced by now for telescopes to get colour images?… just a question

  48. If people just could take the time to learn a bit of the sciences behind it all, instead of screaming FAKE!, as soon as a picture from NASA is released that isn't just a normal photo, that'll be great… Maybe watch the video above explaining some of these?

    As a simple example, in the same way a sound is heard as having a higher or lower frequency when travelling towards or away from you (like the sound of an ambulance for example, google the doppler effect). The same is happening to light, a distant object moving towards us makes the light shift towards the blue spectrum and vice versa with red. Also space is expanding meaning most stuff looks like its redshifted because of the space between us is increasing, so most stuff far far away has redshifted so much it isnt in the visible spectrum anymore and can only be seen as infrared light.
    That means there is no way of taking a normal photo of it and just look at it as if it were another object here on earth, you would have to take an IR photo and then you could assign different colours in the visible spectrum to it to make it more interesting and better adapted to our limited vision.
    This could be tagged as an enhanced photo or an artists rendering but it's still a real photo behind the colours and does not make it CGI or fake!
    Think of it as of how it were in the old days of photography, when you didn't have colour photos, the black and white photos were often painted on top with colours to make it a colour photo. That does not make the photo fake…

    This is just one example and maybe I'm preaching for the deaf here but I just needed to put this out here… In most cases you could find the original source data for it as well ,if you would like to see it before it was enhanced, but that's often not as interesting to look at which is why you most often see the enhanced versions of it.

  49. I remember when Internet was new and how I believed it would change the world in giving all people access to correct info. Turns out its just full of stupid conspiracies giving all hoaxers plenty of inaccurate data to reinforce their confirmation bias. I was so wrong and my hope in humanity decreases a little bit very time I read a comment section like this. Am I alone in thinking so? It's depressing so say the least =/

  50. Please, can someone provide a link to real photos of space and the planets, etc? I am only learning everything I have seen so far is some made up BS and I'd like to see the real thing. Thanks.

  51. Photos so fake, they just have to be real!

    The real story the data is collecting, is that, apparently, there are squirrels on Mars. Yep. Cuz their photo shoots are taken in northern Canada and Greenland…

    Oh, and a recently discovered image of Pluto the Disney dog’s face just happens to be on the planet Pluto! A planet that was discovered in the same year Pluto the dog was created by Disney…

    And people actually believe a private entrepreneur landed a Tesla on Mars…and the rubber on the wheels didn’t even melt…😂😂😂

    And the Apollo astronauts shot through the high radiation Van Allen belt up and back a half dozen times and didn’t even know it…radiation FAR MORE DANGEROUS than the radiation found on earth. But don’t worry! They’re considering using water bottles and water filled vests to protect themselves next time, cuz radiation can’t penetrate water don’tcha know. In the meantime, we still need to wear x-ray protective aprons at the dentist’s office.(I’m gonna be sure to take a few water bottles with me next time, jic).

    Oh wait, supposedly we haven’t left earth’s orbit! 🤔🤪

  52. It's so simple… Why they don't just send a probe with a 8K high definition camera (with colors) and simply take a raw photo of each planet it's orbiting when the sun are enlighten it?

    I get the filters to help the scientists study the planets, but it would be also very good to have the real/raw/colorful/actual thing.

    I'm not a stupid flat eater, but I'm getting tired of all the cgi's and "ilustrations". I would like to see what the space really look like. Even if it's boring and disappointing.

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