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Mars and Orion over Monument Valley   Image Credit & Copyright:  Wally Pacholka (Astropics, TWAN)

ALMA under the MilkyWay
This view shows several of the ALMA antennas and the central regions of the Milky Way above. In this wide field view, the zodiacal light is seen upper left and at lower left Mars is seen. Saturn is a bit higher in the sky towards the centre of the image. 
Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (
grabyourpack asked: Yo, great blog. I have a question though. When images of galaxies are shown with false colour, how does NASA or whomever else decide which colours should represent parts of the galaxy that are otherwise invisible? Are the colours based on science or just aesthetics? Cheerio.


Images taken in light wavelengths invisible to us are recorded as brightness and are given colors that match their relative wavelength in the visible light spectrum.  Remember that each color of light has its own wavelength; red light has a wavelength of ~750 nanometers, and violet light has a wavelength of ~400 nanometers.  All other colors in the spectrum we can see lie between these extremes.  Colors that we cannot see have wavelengths that are shorter (ultraviolet, X-ray, gamma-ray) or longer (infrared, microwave, radio) than the visible light spectrum.  In a composite image, X-ray data will be given a violet hue because violet has a short wavelength, and infrared data will be given a red hue because red has a long wavelength.  It’s a way of ‘compressing’ the total light spectrum into the visible spectrum so we can perceive it. If you want to know more, NASA has a great website describing the meaning of color in images, and instructions on how to process data from space telescopes yourself!


Herschel’s Andromeda Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz
Explanation: This infrared view from the Herschel Space Observatory explores the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. Only 2.5 million light-years distant, the famous island universe is also known to astronomers as M31. Andromeda spans over 200,000 light-years making it more than twice the size of the Milky Way. Shown in false color, the image data reveal the cool dust lanes and clouds that still shine in the infrared but are otherwise dark and opaque at visual wavelengths. Red hues near the galaxy’s outskirts represent the glow of dust heated by starlight to a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Blue colors correspond to hotter dust warmed by stars in the more crowded central core. Also a tracer of molecular gas, the dust highlights Andromeda’s prodigious reservoir of raw material for future star formation.


NASA’s Swift satellite has detected a sudden burst of energy coming from our neighboring galaxy M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. It is unclear exactly what this is at the moment, either a gamma ray burst (GRB) or an ultra-luminous x-ray source (ULX), but both outcomes are very exciting, especially since this occurred so close to us.
If this energetic source turns out to be a gamma ray burst, it was likely created from a collision of neutron stars. If an ultra-luminousx-ray source, the cause would be a black hole consuming matter.
There is a lot of discussion about this happening on Twitter right now. Check out #GRBm31 for what astronomers and astrophysicists are saying.

More unfolding news on this HERE and HERE!
Related: previous posts on Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs).
The Milky Way Galaxy is one of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions of galaxies notable neither in mass nor in brightness nor in how its stars are configured and arrayed. Some modern deep sky photographs show more galaxies beyond the Milky Way than stars within the Milky Way. Every one of them is an island universe containing perhaps a hundred billion suns. Such an image is a profound sermon on humility.

Thousands of galaxies in a single picture.
Credit: NASA/ESA/
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