Visualizing the cosmos: what does space really look like?

Space has always fascinated our minds. Only recently, we’ve got the right tools to look deeper into it. But does it really look like the photos we see on the Internet?

Visualizing the cosmos: what does space really look like?

Imagining the cosmos

Imagine the enormous Universe in which the entire Earth with the whole of humanity is but a tiny undetectable speck. People have been doing just that for thousands of years. 

For quite a while, we relied only on our eyes, regular observations, and calculations. Then, about 60 years ago, we made the first trip to space, and the lucky few experienced space first-hand.

But the big breakthrough that allowed us to take a closer look happened a bit earlier: the telescope entered the stage in the early 17th century.

Galileo Galilei is often credited with the invention, although he only built upon the technology that had already existed. However, his version could magnify objects about 20–30 times, which was a lot. 

Additionally, Galileo was the first to aim the telescope into the starry sky, leading to crucial astronomical discoveries and shaping our understanding of the Universe for ages to come.

Phases of the Moon drawn by Galilei (1616)

Most of us base our mental image of the vast Universe on movies, video games, sci-fi books, and firstly—on images released by NASA. You’ve certainly seen colorful and bright depictions of planets, stars, black holes, interstellar gas clouds, and galaxies. 

Is space as colorful in reality as we see it in the pictures? Let’s figure it out. 

Next up, we’ll discover: On which tools do we rely on to get the images of the Universe? What are the most powerful telescopes? How does science put color and imagination into pictures from deep space?

The machines that let us see the Universe 

Nowadays, we can watch the Universe almost constantly. The machines equipped with powerful telescopes and digital cameras take pictures of objects near and far. Let us briefly go through the list of technologies developed to see space closer.

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