The main problem I have with putting in the celestial objects seen in iconic images like the all too familiar Pillars of Creation, The Horsehead Nebula, The Hourglass Nebula, etc., is that they're all false color images. They usually assign certain colors to certain elements, or wavelengths which are invisible to the human eye.
The argument I hear in my head when I say that is, "But there are a billion brightly colored nebulae in the game already, what about those?" And while I partially agree, it can be argued that those are invented, and thus, who's to say those, fictitious nebulae, do not give off such visible light.
Not exactly Taco. While a lot of images do use compositing to get various effects, in reality, a lot of Nebulae do actually look like their photographs.
Also, remember that "Viewscreen" thread a few months ago? Where we established that veiwscreens aren't really television screens, but more displays for what the sensors are seeing? Of couse the human eye wouldn't be able to see them, but shouldn't the ship be capable of displaying those false-colour images in realtime?
Astronomers do not use color cameras. For the most part, astronomers and astrophysicists have little use for color images.
If you see a color image of an astronomical object, it was taken using two or more exposures in two or more filters (astronomers almost always use filters that only allow in a certain range of frequencies).
To get a color photograph, you have to choose which filters to use and how to blend them together. Add to that the fact that what we see from Earth is not necessarily what we would see if we were near the stellar object. The interstellar medium leads to what is called reddening and specific types of gasses or dusts between us and the object might further alter which frequencies get through. The worst thing is the atmosphere, which eliminates big chucks of the EM spectrum and lots of wavelengths of light.
What we see in photographs is probably very different than what we would see if we were actually near the object, staring out the window. Things that are in beautiful, bright hues in color composites look like grey or muted colors through a telescope.
Take the U filter, one of the four most commonly used astronomical filters. Most of this wavelength is invisible to the human eye, yet it is often included as visible spectra in Hubble color composite photographs.
Take a look at the Orion nebula with a telescope. It is one of the most colorful objects in the sky, but what you see through the eyepiece is very muted compared to what you see in Hubble CCD images that have been compiled into a color picture.
Last edited by logicalspock; 04-24-2013 at 12:42 AM.
As I understand it, you also wouldn't probably see much of the Nebula if you are very close or in it. It might look like a bright object from afar (see Orion Nebula) but once in it, all the layers are far too thin-stretched to be overly impressive.
In that regard, most depictions of Nebulae in science fiction are probably very unrealistic (but yeah, it's hard to realize that with all the colorful images produced by astronomers that don't really depict reality).
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