Galactic Colour

Explore an interactive image of the night sky, and change between images of different spectral regions such as x-ray and radio waves.

How to Use It

Tap to select a spectral region; pinch and drag to zoom and pan; and turn labels on or off to show constellations and other astronomical objects.

What Science Tells Us

Human eyes are only sensitive to a small range of wavelengths of electromagnetic (EM) radiation (light). These correspond strongly with the most intense range of wavelengths present in the sunlight that falls to Earth.

Certain scientific instruments are capable of capturing and measuring wavelengths that we cannot see. In the same way human eyes use colour to learn about the properties of the world around us (ripe fruit vs unripe, time of day, fresh vs dry grass), this data can be used to understand the universe around us more deeply.

Colour can be used to present data in a way that allows quick visual differentiation of regions. Several techniques for colouring data in this way exist, many of which are represented in the exhibit.

Things to Try or Ask

Where else is false colour used?

Can you find features in one spectral region that are not visible in others?

Compare one part of the night sky across several spectral regions. What changes do you observe?

Finding the Science in Your World

False colour is used in many places to represent data so it is easy to see. From rainfall radars to satellite imagery, thermal cameras, and population maps, colour-coded data is all around us.