Category Deep Thoughts

Why Can’t We See Color from Deep Space Objects?

One of my coworkers asked me a really good question today: Why can’t you see colors in space with your eyes? I actually did not know the answer so I went in search of it.  I experienced this phenomena first hand when I visited the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland for the first time.  The object they had in focus in their huge telescope was the Dumbell Nebula, which looked like a white fuzzy blob through the eyepiece of the telescope.  Does color really exist in space?  I found a really good explanation below but you just want the Cliffs Notes, the light in space is too dim to activate the color sensing portions of our eyes but CCD cameras are sensitive to the colors in space and are able to record the colors we can’t detect:

Why Can't Eyes See Color in Space

“The brilliant colors you see in astrophotos of nebulae are too faint to be seen live, even through a telescope. Most nebulae are just too faint to trigger the color sensors (cones) in your eye, so you see them with your monochrome night vision (rods). In particular, you can’t see the red color that’s in a lot of photos; not only is it faint, but it’s also in a part of the spectrum your eyes aren’t very sensitive to.

You can certainly see colors in planets – Mars, for example, is distinctively reddish. I’m sure the blue of Earth would be quite striking if you were seeing it from Mars.

If you look carefully, you will see that stars vary in color – some are bluish, while others are yellowish or reddish...

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Looking Back in Time 85 Million Years

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3414

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3414

The Universe, space, and time, is a difficult concept to comprehend due to its vast and infinite size.  That is why the Lightyear was created, which is the distance that light travels in 1 year or just under 6 trillion miles (5,878,625 million miles).  The “year” contains measurements of both time and distance, where time is calculated on the Julian scale, where 1 year is equal to 365.25 days.  Because light takes time to travel from one place to another, we can therefore look farther back through time through telescopes.  We see objects not as they are now but as they were at the time when they released the light that has traveled across the universe to Earth.  That is what fascinates me about Astronomy and why I started the hobby of Astrophotography.

Take the image above, for example.  We are looking at the NGC 3395 and 3396 galaxies as they were 85 million years ago because the distance that these objects are in space are 85 Million Lightyears from Earth.  So what was happening on Earth 85 million years ago?  Earth was in the Cretaceous Period, defined by following characteristics:

Earth 145 to 66 Million Years Ago

“Flowering plants proliferate, along with new types of insects. More modern teleost fish begin to appear. Ammonoidea, belemnites, rudistbivalves, echinoids and sponges all common. Many new types of dinosaurs (e.g...

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A Stargazer is Born

How The Universe Works

How The Universe Works

The universe has always fascinated me and one night I was surfing around on Netflix and came across the documentary section.  I stumbled across the How the Universe Works series from the Discovery Channel and after watching the ‘Big Bangs’ episode, I was hooked!  I must have watched the episode 5 times before moving on to the other episodes.  After finishing the series, I moved on to History Channel’s ‘The Universe’ and am currently addicted to that show as well.

First photo taken of the moon on 4/7/2012

After learning about the planets, nebulae, galaxies, and the myriad of interstellar objects in space, I started stargazing.  I would often sit under the stars and think about how mind bogglingly huge the Universe is, which made me feel infinitely small.  I don’t know what possessed me to start photographing the stars and the moon with my DSLR but I found myself sitting outside with my camera and the Universe as my backdrop.  I came across a website called, EarthSky, which helped me figure out what I was looking at when I was stargazing.  The site also gave me ideas as to what to capture with my camera.  I visit that site daily as it has fantastic information on what stars or planets will be visible to the unaided eye.  With the help of the SkyView app, I quickly learned to navigate the night sky with my new found passion...

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