The Webb Space Telescope released the first full-color images of galaxies, exoplanets and nebulae on July 12th.
These images have never been seen before, but Webb only captures infrared and near-infrared light, which the human eye cannot see.
The question is where does the color come from?
Color image from the Webb Space Telescope
Image developers assign different infrared wavelengths to colors in the spectrum (blue, red, yellow, etc.). However, according to Forbes, the images processed by the Webb team are not what the telescope saw, but they are hardly inaccurate.
Webb, his team of image developers, is tasked with transforming telescope thermal image data into the sharpest view of the universe the public has ever seen.
Joe DePasquale, senior data image developer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, said in an interview with Gizmodo that he’s trying to change people’s minds about accurate pictures of the universe.
Webb’s first test image helped check the alignment of the mirrors and captured an orange image of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Early images were not representative color images. One used a monochrome filter and his other converted infrared light into visible color bands of red and yellow. This means that the team was able to see some features of the captured cloud. But now the images released by the Webb Telescope are full of bright colors, like recent images of cartwheel galaxies.
Astronomy usually takes place outside the visible spectrum. This is because many of the interesting objects in space glow brightly in her X-rays, ultraviolet light, and even radio waves. Infrared helps penetrate the thick clouds of gas and dust in space. According to NASA, this will allow researchers to see the hidden mysteries of the universe.
Scientists are interested in light from the early universe that was stretched as the universe expanded. This means that what used to be ultraviolet or visible light is now infrared or redshifted light. DePasquale said the device they developed expands their vision and resolves objects “beyond what our eyes can do to see light” and see them with the naked eye.
DePasquale added that they strive to bring out the most detailed and “richest color and complexity inherent in the data” without changing anything. Webb telescope raw images are full of data that must be reduced before they can be converted to visible light.
We also need to remove artifacts from the image, such as reflections from bright stars hitting the telescope’s detector. Before cleaning an image, it often looks like a black rectangle with white dots around it.
- The first full-color image of the South Ring Planetary Nebula from the James Webb Space Telescope
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