Galileo would be so proud.
September 9, 2009 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Earlier today, NASA released the first photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope since it was refurbished last May - and the results are absolutely stunning.
posted by Lutoslawski (29 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
The gravitational lensing picture is very, very cool.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:31 PM on September 9, 2009

The gravitational lensing picture is very, very cool.

Yeah, it's like seeing a really high quality photo of relativity. My mind is blown.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2009

Hello new wallpaper.
posted by dersins at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2009

Holy shit.
posted by rtha at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2009

Magnificent! And just wait until the JWST!
posted by jquinby at 12:44 PM on September 9, 2009

I sofa king love that these are public domain & that we can have them ful-res for free because THEY ARE OURS! Thanks for the link -- I hoard these.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:49 PM on September 9, 2009

These are wonderful, thanks for posting them.
posted by msali at 12:50 PM on September 9, 2009

And just wait until the JWST!

Oh my god I had no idea this was happening. Please lord Santa Jesus Xeno Buddha let me live until 2014 so I can see the FIRST GALAXIES THAT FORMED IN THE EARLY UNIVERSE. wow.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:59 PM on September 9, 2009

I want one of these space telescopes. If I had one, I could take pictures of naked ladies on foreign planets.
posted by Mister_A at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Looks photoshopped.

What? They are. Still amazing though.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2009

Oh my god I had no idea this was happening.

For comparison, note the relative sizes of the HST and the JWST.
posted by jquinby at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2009

I was surprised that the top image in the Carina nebula picture was the one taken in visible light. I always thought those beautiful nebula photos were doctored. I'm so happy that some things in space actually appear exactly that way.
posted by invitapriore at 1:35 PM on September 9, 2009

Awesome pictures and info. I love peering into the depths of space from my desk. Whatever happened to the plan to build a large liquid telescope on the moon?
posted by msbutah at 1:35 PM on September 9, 2009

Oops, I missed Pastabagel's comment. I guess the fact that a photo was taken in visible light doesn't mean that the contents of the photo appear will that way to the eye.
posted by invitapriore at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2009

Holy shitballs.
posted by everichon at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2009

Looks photoshopped.

Interesting article. It's important to note that a good deal of the article is devoted to explaining how colors are enhanced in the photograph and not arbitrarily created. c.f.

Human eyes, even if very near to or inside one of these nebulae, could not make out the colors, however, because the emissions are too faint. They would see little more than a big gray area.

Hubble astronomers make multiple long exposures to draw out these colors. They also employ a different filter for each exposure to block all but a certain color of light. A digital imager records a grayscale image. After adding the color in Photoshop (and also eliminating artifacts generated by piecing the data together) the filtered images are combined.

In some cases, the colors are as true to reality as anyone could imagine. Other times, as with the Eagle Nebula, colors are changed for effect. Hydrogen and sulfur were each detected in red tones, so the hydrogen, which involved a shorter wavelength, was made green.

Also the article is from 2002. I'd be interested in learning how the new imaging technology on the Hubble has changed this.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2009

From the NASA website:

The pictures demonstrate one example of the broad wavelength range of the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) aboard the Hubble telescope, extending from ultraviolet to visible to infrared light.

I'm no color expert, but from the descriptions it would seem that the new equipment is made to capture actual color in more detail than the older cameras. Then again, IANAAE and IANAOE.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2009

I fully support a Constitutional Amendment to ensure full funding, upkeep, repair, and improvement for the HST, in perpetuity. This would include missions to move it back into a stable orbit, should it become necessary.

That thing must never be allowed to die.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

There is something the two bright points in the gravitational lensing photo that makes me want to pattern match a face in there; I can easily imagine a jaw line and maybe even a bit of a nose...

And as someone who just got his home made backyard telescope working properly enough to see Jupiter's moons and bands, I'm feeling a bit of lens envy here.
posted by quin at 2:20 PM on September 9, 2009

Thanks Lutoslawski. I join Thorzdad in a pledge to pay taxes to support Hubble and/ or the James Webb Space Telescope. I will grumble, but I will pay.
And thanks to whoever did not use flash to post the pictures. I HAD to have the Omega Centauri globular cluster that looked like confetti.
posted by Cranberry at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2009

Some of these shots were on BBC news today. (September 9th)

It put some of the other news in perspective.
posted by Quillcards at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm no color expert, but from the descriptions it would seem that the new equipment is made to capture actual color in more detail than the older cameras.

The instrument itself is sensitive to light over a range of wavelengths. But typically you want to isolate some feature in the spectrum, corresponding to emission from a particular element or what have you, so you basically put a filter over the "camera" that lets only light with a narrow band of wavelengths through. To create a color image, you combine several filtered images, assigning each one to a reasonable part of the visual spectrum.

E.g., say I want to look at a particular emission line of hydrogen, which occurs at a wavelength of 6563 Angstroms, because I'm interested in it for scientific reasons. I can take a picture of the object with a filter set up to let only light between 6562 and 6464 Angstroms through; later, I can take pictures at other wavelengths, corresponding to other emission lines or whatever. After the fact, I can either show you a black-and-white (or single-color) image from any one of these filtered images, or I can combine them into a color image. To combine them, I'd typically try to pick colors that correspond to the light coming through in each filter -- so, for instance, because 6563 Angstroms corresponds to something in the red portion of the visual spectrum, I'd use that as my "red" image. I'd use something in the 5000-5700 Angstrom range as a "green" image, something in the 4500-5000 Angstrom range as a "blue image," and so on.

This process is not generally going to be exactly like what you'd see if you had super-super-sensitive eyes that could stare at an object for a long time and accumulate photons -- your eyes don't call only stuff between 6560 and 6565 Angstroms "red," stuff between 3965 and 3975 angstroms "blue," etc. But, you know, it's not bad. Plus we can actually do science with each of the individual images and get a nice picture out of the deal.
posted by chalkbored at 3:06 PM on September 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Hey, thanks chalkbored! That helps a lot.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2009

In addition to what chalkbored said humans really aren't very good at absolute colour anyways; other colours in close proximity tend to shift our perceptions of absolute value as do differences in contrast and brightness. Pretty extremely in many cases. So just assigning semi arbitrary colours isn't dishonest.
posted by Mitheral at 7:33 PM on September 9, 2009

For incoming freshman at Beloit College, the Hubble Space Telescope has never been a punchline.
posted by nicepersonality at 7:40 PM on September 9, 2009

Interesting to think these amazing images, the millions spent on the new wide filed camera, and our collective awe were at one point entirely at the mercy of one 16-year old bolt holding shut the camera bay door.

Houston: I'm removing the torque-limiter.
posted by IndpMed at 12:44 AM on September 10, 2009

Whoops! that last link is from Facebook, and not every person in the world is on it. Here is another run down of the suspenseful day 1 repairs.

From Discover Magazine
posted by IndpMed at 12:49 AM on September 10, 2009

msbutah: so ridiculously expensive and such a long term project if it happened you probably won't hear anything for decades
posted by edd at 6:56 AM on September 10, 2009

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