The Colorful Universe

Let’s try this again.

I new that there were many colors seen throughout the universe, but this is a first for me.

This image taken on Dec. 28, 2013 from New Zealand shows Nova Centauri 2013, a bright naked eye nova in the Southern constellation of Centaurus. The nova appears pink because of emissions from ionised hydrogen. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

This image (Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.) of a pink supernova is pretty amazing.  Its color is due to the ionizing gas from the explosion, and very rare.

File:Orion Nebula - Hubble 2006 mosaic 18000.jpg

The Orion nebula shows all sorts of colors in the visible light spectrum in this image.

Even green objects like Hanny’s Voorwerp exist.

So why can you see them?


The structure of the eye compared to the camera: taken from Wald, George (1953) ‘Eye and Camera’ in Scientific American Reader, New York, Simon and Schuster.

It turns out that our eyes aren’t really that good at imaging.  When visual astronomers look at objects, like the Orion nebula, it is mostly gray and sometimes, if your eyes are young enough, green.  This is due to the fact that the human eye is more like a motion picture camera, processing frame after frame and moving on.  Cameras, on the other hand, can collect those few and distant photons over a period of time and can capture all the colors that we miss.  This is why I do astrophotography.  Although it is a difficult process, the images are far more interesting to me.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +