This may seem lazy, but… We ended our visualization conference today with a discussion of imaging philosophy. And the above image came up in discussion. It’s the (in)famous “Pillars of Creation” image of the Eagle Nebula, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, of course, and it’s gotten about as much visibility as any astronomical image of the last few decades. So without much ado, maybe I could just pass along a few questions for those of you who consider yourself members of “the general public” (whatever that means, anyway).

Did you know that the Eagle Nebula doesn’t shine in those particular colors? In fact, it looks more like this pink-ish image from Rob Gendler, which is at least closer in color to what you would see with your eye up to a telescope. Does it bother you that the image represents something that you wouldn’t see through the eyepiece of a telescope? Do you think image specialists are lying to you by presenting images in this manner? (You can learn how the Hubble team makes thir color images by reading “Behind the Pictures” at their website.)

For that matter, how do you think we should describe images like the one above? They’ve often been called “false color.” Does that sound appropriate? What does the term suggest to you? Hubble describes such images as ”representative color.” How does that sound?

As you might guess, those of us in the biz have our own ideas, but I’m curious if anyone out there would like to share their opinion(s).


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