The Frightful Fallacy of “False Color”

Neptune in "False Color" (NASA/JPL)
Voyager 2 image of Neptune in “false color” (NASA/JPL)

I rarely ever reblog posts, but this is an excellent criticism on the term “false color” and its oft-maligned perception by the modern public, and also a support of coloration techniques used in astronomy to produce the beautiful — and scientifically valuable — space images we have all come to enjoy (and expect!) By Dr. Robert Hurt, Visualization Scientist for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope project. Check it out….

Take the lovely image of Neptune above. It shows the planet through three filters: red, green, and an infrared color that is absorbed by methane gas. That final filter is assigned to the red color of the image, so everything we see as red (or white) reveals high altitude clouds and haze that sit above Neptune’s methane layer. That’s pretty cool, and it is revealed through very real colors, just not exactly the ones our eyes see.

What is false about that? Absolutely nothing!

Read the full article here.

(HT to Whitney Clavin for the tweet!)

One Comment

  1. Gato Rudyard says:

    The term “false color” doesn’t mean they are not colors, but just that “the colors in the picture are not what your eyes would actually see”, nothing more.


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