Few things are more vibrant, more beautiful and more majestic than images of space. Thankfully, "Coloring the Universe: An Insider's Look at Making Spectacular Images of Space" by Travis A. Rector, Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke presents everything from nebulae, supernovas, distant galaxies and beyond in one jaw-dropping book.
"Vision is the richest of the senses, and we are used to interpreting the endless colors and varied textures of the world around us through our eyes," Dr. David Malin writes in the book's foreword. Malin, an astronomer, helped develop several of the techniques used to capture images of space in the 1970s and '80s.
"But even when viewed through the largest telescopes," Malin writes, "most of the amazing star-forming nebulae and nearby galaxies ... seem as faint gray smudges to the eye."
Collecting 250 pages of imagery captured by observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and more, "Coloring" goes beyond mere photo book to detail the how and why of capturing images of space in an accessible manner.
One surprising aspect of the book is the revelation that astronomers use photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to create the images.
Objects are captured multiple times through a variety of filters designed to read different levels of electromagnetic radiation (think X-ray, infrared, ultraviolet and all other light besides what the human eye can see). The data are converted into grayscale images, pulled into Photoshop and assigned a color based on how much light was emitted by the object (lowest-energy light is red, highest energy is blue). Finally, colorized layers are stacked to create a final image.
Complicated? Maybe. Endlessly fascinating? Absolutely.