How to Photoshop The Universe (Just Like NASA Does)


Photo: NASA via WonderHowTo

 By Casey RentzNASA just released this beautiful image of what’s leftover from a supernova explosion. The red cloud is expanding cosmic debris, the blue is a blast wave of electrons, and the stripes at the edge tell of a high energy burst of x-rays that may be bound for earth.

This image was enhanced—Photoshopped—so that scientists can have an easier time interpreting the picture and so that the public can have an easier time appreciating the beauty of nature.

The NASA artists use artificial colours to enhance regular old black and white images taken from the Chandra X-ray Observatory spacecraft, the Hubble Telescope, and other cameras that take pictures with cameras that see in infrared, UV light, or our pal visible light.

You, too can photoshop a supernova, galaxy, or nebula. Watch this time-lapse video (below) to see how it’s done:

Step 1 Find raw images

Find three raw, black and white image of the same galaxy from the Hubble Telescope or Chandra X-ray Observatory website.

Step 2 Open the images in Photoshop

Step 3 Scale the images

Make ’em the same size. NASA uses FITS Liberator 3 to scale each image (but you don’t have to).

Step 4 Assign colours to each image

Pick fluorescent if you want to go trippy, pastel if you want to go serene. NASA assigns a red, a green, and a blue to their 3 images.

Step 5 Lay the images over one another

If necessary, make some final rotations and scaling.

Step 6 Clean it up

Clean up camera defects—usually manifest as smudgy spots in the background.

Step 7 Save and brag

Save and brag about your new scientific masterpiece!

In case your were wondering, NASA doesn’t always go for super-enhanced colour. They use 3 types of colouring to Photoshop cosmic images. 

  • Natural Representation is very close to what we’d see if we were actually in space, observing the galaxy, planet, or nebula from afar.
  • Representative colour helps us see features of the object that were captured in infrared or UV light, a light we can’t normally see.
  • Enhanced colour helps us see very subtle details.

Via How to Photoshop the Universe (Just Like NASA Does) on WonderHowTo.

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