Color and Image Data
Working with the same archives of image data as planetary scientists and astronomers, Benson's explorations are focused on aesthetic, not scientific discoveries. Taking raw image data acquired for research purposes, Benson edits, combines, composites, and repurposes it for his photography.
For example, the Hubble Space Telescope's digital cameras can detect wavelengths of light well beyond what can be seen by humans. Official Hubble image releases are frequently presented in "representative" colors, meaning hues decoupled from the actual colors exhibited in the visible light spectrum by a given subject. In order to better represent how the human eye might see the nebula— albeit enhanced by the power of the telescope to gather vastly more light than our unassisted senses ever could—Benson has replaced the false-color information of the original Hubble image with true-color data derived from lower-resolution Earth-based observations of the nebula.
In this way, he retains the incomparable detail of the Hubble mosaic composite while enhancing Carina Nebula's color accuracy by utilizing the visible-light wavelength observations recorded by the European Southern Observatory's 2.2 meter telescope in La Silla, Chile. The Museum's photograph of the Carina Nebula combines image data from 54 observations made at different times and places: 48 conducted in Earth orbit by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005, and six made in Chile's Atacama Desert by the European Southern Observatory between 1999 and 2003.
Images shown here:
Sequences in the production of a Hubble Space Telescope image of Messier 17.
First the individual exposure (taken through three different filters):
1. 673n (Sulphur) shown in red in the final image)
2. 656n (hydrogen, green)
3. 502n (oxygen, blue)
4. First colour composite attempt
8. Adjusting the composition and then
9. Final colour and contrast adjustments for the final image.