Ever wonder how the Hubble Telescope captures such vivid images like the one above, or how the Mars Rover creates panoramas? Well, you can probably guess it is all done in Adobe Photoshop, but how they do it is the amazing part.
If you check out the the Adobe blog today you will find a fascinating article on how NASA uses Photoshop to create these powerful images of outer space.
The image-processing experts at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) aren’t the traditional photographic artists working in Photoshop, but instead astronomers. Robert Hurt is one such astronomer and visualization scientist at Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, that brings outer space to life. NASA’s reason for only using astronomers is quite simple: to create one image from many photographs composited together in the most accurate way, and to keep their scientific integrity of the photographs. It would be easy for someone who doesn’t know the specifics of the universe to accidentally remove or edit something they know nothing about.
But they also help us to see what cannot be seen. Hurt does so by taking the infrared photos captured from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and composites them together into one usable image with the RAW grayscale Data from the telescopes. He then remaps them into visible color using Red, Blue, and Green layers.
“My general workflow for this,” he tells Adobe, “is to first take the original observational data from the telescope, which is kind of an HDR representation of the sky. Each observation involved in compiling that HDR image will then have its own layer grouping in Photoshop, to which I’ll make layer adjustments and curve adjustments to bring out the contrast and important details in the data. Sometimes I’ll bring in Hubble’s visible-light photos of the same astronomical region, too, and layer the Spitzer data on top of those to create images highlighting the interesting contrasts between different parts of the spectrum that the general public can enjoy and understand.”
The images using Photoshop aren’t just from telescopes in orbit, but also from the Mars Rover. When we see photos from the Rover, the JPL image-processing experts/astronomers use Photoshop to fix jagged or washed-out skies by cropping out and replacing them with color gradients. Another cool technique to stitch together photos from the Rover to make a panoramic is that they developed a method using camera models and tie-points to spatially align data across the stitched photos to make it look seamless. They can also render stereoscopic/3D photographs using Photoshop.