Skip to comments.True Colors of Pluto and Its Largest Moon Charon
Posted on 08/07/2018 8:49:37 AM PDT by ETL
Marking the anniversary of New Horizons historic flight through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, NASA released high-resolution natural-color images of Pluto and Charon.
These color images result from refined calibration of data gathered by New Horizons Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC).
The processing creates images that would approximate the colors that the human eye would perceive, bringing them closer to true color than the images released near the encounter.
The image of Pluto was taken as New Horizons zipped toward the dwarf planet and its moons on July 14, 2015, from a range of 22,025 miles (35,445 km).
The striking features on Pluto are clearly visible, including the bright expanse of its icy, nitrogen-and-methane rich heart, Sputnik Planitia.
The image of Charon was taken on July 14 from a range of 46,091 miles (74,176 km).
The striking features on the moon are clearly visible, including the reddish north-polar region known as Mordor Macula.
These color MVIC scans include no data from other New Horizons imagers or instruments added.
(Excerpt) Read more at sci-news.com ...
Charon in true color
Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest
Research Institute / Alex Parker.
We hear it all the time. Well, maybe you dont, but I get this thrown at me a lot. We see beautiful images released by NASA and other space agencies: ghostly nebulas giving tantalizing hints of their inner structures, leftover ruins of long-dead stellar systems, furious supernovae caught in the act of exploding and newborn stars peeking out from their dusty wombs.
Instead of just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the light show the universe is putting on, some people feel compelled to object: But those colors are fake! You wouldnt see that nebula with your eyes! Binoculars and telescopes wouldnt reveal that supernova structure! Nothing in the universe is that shade of purple! And so on.
I think its first important to describe what a telescope is doing, especially a telescope with a digital camera attached. The telescope itself is an arrangement of tubes, mirrors and/or lenses that enable the instrument to capture as much light as possible. Obviously, it pulls in much more light than the human eye does, or it wouldnt be very good at what it was built to do. So, naturally, telescopes will see really faint things things youd never see with your eyes unless you hitched a ride on a wandering rogue exoplanet and settled in for a million-year cruise.
A telescopes second job is to shove all those astronomical photons into a tiny spot that can fit into your iris; otherwise, it would just dump the light on your whole face, which wouldnt be very interesting or useful. That act of focusing also magnifies images, making them appear much larger than in real life.
So, already, a telescope is giving you an artificial view of the heavens.
Your retinas have special sensors (aka, rods and cones) that can pick out different colors. But digital sensors like the one you might use to take a selfie arent sensitive to colors at all. They can only measure the total amount of light slamming into them. So to correct for this, they use filters, and either employ multiple sets of sensors or combine multiple readings from the same sensor.
Either way, the result is the same: an avalanche of data about the properties of the light that hit the device at the same moment you were taking your picture. Fancy software algorithms reconstruct all this data into an image that kinda, sorta approximates what your eyes wouldve seen without the digital gear.
But as anyone who has had to fiddle with exposure and lighting settings knows, its far from a one-to-one, human-computer match.
If youve ever played with filters before posting a selfie, youre doing it for a reason: You want the picture to look better.
Scientists want pictures to look better, too for the sake of science. Researchers take pictures of stuff in space to learn about how it works, and some higher contrast here or a little brightening over there can help us understand complex structures and relationships within and between them.
So dont blame NASA for a little photo enhancement touching up; theyre doing it for science. [NASAs 10 Greatest Science Missions ]
The colors of the universe
But what about adding colors? If one had to do a census, perhaps the most common colors in the universe are red and blue. So if youre looking at a gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope image and see lots of those two colors, its probably close to what your unaided eye would see.
But a broad wash of green? A sprinkling of bright orange? Astrophysical mechanisms dont usually produce colors like that, so whats the deal?
The deal is, again, science. Researchers will often add artificial colors to pick out some element or feature that theyre trying to study. Elements when theyre heated will glow in very specific wavelengths of light. Sometimes that light is within human perception but will be washed out by other colors in the picture, and sometimes the lights wavelength is altogether beyond the visible.
But in either case, we want to map out where that element is in a particular nebula or disk. So scientists will highlight that feature to get clues to the origins and structure of something complex. Wow, that oxygen-rich cloud is practically wrapped around the disk! How scientifically fascinating! You get the idea.
Ever since William Herschel accidentally discovered infrared radiation, scientists have known that theres more to light than light. Redder than the deepest reds gives you infrared, microwaves and radio. Violet-er than the deepest violet gives you ultraviolet, plus X-rays and gamma-rays.
Scientists have telescopes to detect every kind of electromagnetic radiation there is, from tiny bullet-like gamma-rays to radio waves that are meters across. The telescope technologies are pretty much always the same, too: collect light in a bucket, and focus it into a central spot.
So, of course, scientists would like to make a map. After all, we did spend quite a bit of money to build the telescope. But what color is a gamma-ray that comes from a distant supernova? What hue is a radio emission from an active galaxy? We need to map all this data onto something palatable to human senses, and we do that by assigning artificial colors to the images.
Without that, we wouldnt be able to actually do science.
“Dwarf Planet” my azz. Pluto has never stopped being a planet in my book. Doesn’t grandfathering apply anymore?
To the author (Paul Sutter): Respectfully scientists may spend the money but most if comes from taxpayers. So if we want to gripe about the stuff that comes back, stop complaining about us complaining. Suck it up and enjoy the free toys we give you.
The big surprise about Pluto is that it’s so active. The features show signs of relatively recent changes.
It all depends on how they define "planet". I doubt Pluto gives a rat's rear end what we call it.
They are QUITE adamant that Pluto is the ninth proper planet of the solar system.
Is it true that only planets have moons?
It has moons.
It orbits the Sun.
It’s a planet...............
While I agree he shouldn't have sounded so nasty about it, he did explain why they often need to tweak the colors, or even assign random colors, in order to better study and/or highlight various features of the objects they're observing or presenting to the public.
Can asteroids have moons?
Yes, asteroids can have moons! Some of the larger asteroids in our Solar System actually do have moons. In 1993, an tiny moon called Dactyl was discovered orbiting the large asteroid Ida. Dactyl is only about 1 mile wide, while Ida is about 19 miles across. Since then, several other moons have been discovered orbiting asteroids.
In 1999, an 8 mile wide moon called Petit-Prince was discovered orbiting the 135 mile wide asteroid Eugenia. In 2000, the 90 mile wide asteroid Pulcova was discovered to have its own moon, about nine miles wide. Over two dozen more have been discovered.
It's like these people who make movies like Star Wars belittling the fans and calling them sexist neck beards because they don't like the newest Star Wars movie. Dude, they pay for that franchise to exist. Let them post stuff on social media and keep your mouths shut, go cash the checks and make the next movie but maybe try not to be an arrogant jerk about it.
I agree. No need at all for it. But at least he did explain, after the insults. I probably should have searched for a better article for the explanation on colors in astro photos.
I agree completely. The IAU's redefinition of Pluto came in 2006. The body deciding the issue was composed primarily of astrophysicists, not planetary scientists. By the IAU's definition Neptune is not a planet either - if it was it would have "cleared" it's orbital space of Pluto and a lot of small Kuiper Belt Objects.
Pluto was the only planet discovered by an American. It's demotion occurred at about the nadir of George W. Bush's popularity. So what you had was a gang of leftist, internationalist, materialist academics taking revenge on George W. Bush and a country they hate.
I fully suspected some political angle involved in its demotion. Besides, it’s white (icy) and male (masculine name.)
Shouldn’t Dactyl be orbiting Terra?
This newly discovered 'planet' isn't even orbiting a star.
Astronomers using NSFs Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array have detected a rogue planetary-mass object with a surprisingly powerful magnetic field
The object, called SIMP J01365663+0933473 (SIMP0136 for short), has roughly 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter and its radius is about 1.22 times that of Jupiter.
This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets, said Dr. Melodie Kao, a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University.
SIMP0136 was originally discovered in 2006 by another team of researchers, led by University of Montréal astronomer Dr. Étienne Artigau. The discovery was made as part of a near-infrared proper-motion survey, SIMP (Sondage Infrarouge de Mouvement Propre).
In 2016, Dr. Kao and co-authors observed SIMP0136 with the Very Large Array (VLA) in order to gain new knowledge about magnetic fields and the mechanisms by which some of the coolest brown dwarfs can produce strong radio emission.
Brown dwarf masses are notoriously difficult to measure, and at the time, SIMP0136 was thought to be an old and much more massive brown dwarf.
Last year, Dr. Artigaus team discovered that the object was part of a very young group of stars. Its young age meant that it was in fact so much less massive that it could be a free-floating planet.
At 200 million years old and approximately 20 light-years from Earth, SIMP0136 has a surface temperature of about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (825 degrees Celsius).
The difference between a gas giant planet and a brown dwarf remains hotly debated among astronomers, but one rule of thumb that they use is the mass below which deuterium fusion ceases, known as the deuterium-burning limit, around 13 Jupiter masses. ...
If they are going to play with the colors and enhance the images, they probably could have done a better job with Pluto...
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.