This Is Not What Space Looks Like

There are so many incredible images of space
floating around out there. But is this what space really looks like? Well, kinda… Let’s start with these big, sweeping images
of nebulas and star-forming regions. We can’t talk about these space images without
taking a quick look at the electromagnetic spectrum. We can only see this narrow band of visible
light. But on the shorter end tending towards x-rays
and the longer end tending towards microwaves, there is still a lot of information for scientists
to glean, so they use telescopes that can see in these wavelengths that are invisible
to our eye. Astronomers take that data and shift the colour
information to frequencies that we can see while keeping relative colours constant. This doesn’t mean they’re not real…
it’s sort of like changing the key of a song — it sounds different but still the
same. Let’s take Hubble as an example. Hubble can see in visible light like we can,
but using specialize instruments it can also see in ultraviolet and infrared light. Light information hits the digital camera
sensor as a greyscale image — yep, those amazing hubble images have no color. Then astronomers add colour data and adjust
for known wavelengths, adding corresponding colours and patching different shots together
to give a complete picture. A great example is these two images of the
Pillars of Creation… three columns of cold gas in a star-forming region of the Eagle
Nebula. The one on the left is seen in visible light
and the one on the right is seen in infrared light. Looking in the infrared, Hubble could see
through the gas and dust — that blocks our vision — to show stars forming inside the
pillars. So space sort of looks like both of these
images, but it also doesn’t… it takes processing and adding colour data to get this
kind of rich detail. But there’s another type of space image:
the artist’s rendering. These are some of the most exciting images,
and also the ones that demand the most guesswork. Let’s take this image of Trappist-1f as
an example. Trappist-1f is part of the Trappist-1 system,
we have a video on it. So, how do we know what the surface looks
like? Well, we don’t. Because this is what the data looks like. But artists consulted with scientists to make
this image. First, astronomers used the Spitzer telescope
to estimate of the mass of the planet, and its density; from this information, the scientists
figured out that 1f is likely a rocky planet. Then, from transit measurements astronomers
know the planet orbits close to its star, way closer than Mercury does our Sun, so the
star would look big in the sky. But that star is an ultra-cool dwarf, so it’s
possible for liquid water to exist on the surface of the planet! So they put that in the image too. And, finally, because the other planets in
the system orbit close to 1f, the scientists think you might be able to see them in the
sky. Et voila! An artist’s rendering of Trappist-1f. Look’s nice. So, even if these images aren’t exactly
what we’d see if we were to visit the Pillars of Creation (which are gone now, by the way)
or Trappist-1f… These images not only give us vital information,
they kind of remind us how exciting it is to find new things in space. We can’t do Seeker episodes without our
sponsors. Thanks to Graze for sponsoring this episode. Graze makes snacking exciting by combining
wholesome ingredients with flavors we all love, to create over 100 nutritionist-approved
snacks. Go to and enter promo code SEEKER
to get a free, sampler box delivered to your home or work. So what’s your favorite fake space image
that you wish was real? Let us know down below in the comments and
don’t forget to like and subscribe! And speaking of things that we can’t see
in space, I have a video about how Apollo passed through the Van Allen belts over on
Vintage Space. And One more thing! We got nominated for a Webby Award for sending
a VR camera to the Edge of Space! You can help us win! Go to vote dot webbyawards dot com and search
for Seeker. Then click vote. Simple as that!! It really means a lot. And, if you haven’t seen it, check out the
actual video on SeekerVR!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *