Infrared and Visible Images


The purpose of this activity is for students to make their own three-color astronomical image using visible and infrared part of the spectrum. They are to compare and contrast the differences in each image made.

Key Science Topics

  • The electromagnetic spectrum

Grade Level

  • Physics, Grades 11-12
  • May be modified for an upper-level art or computer graphics course

Student Prior Knowledge

  • Students should know the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and characteristics of each.
  • Students should know that when discussing the electromagnetic spectrum, “redder” means longer wavelength and “bluer” means shorter wavelength.
  • Students should know that combining red, green, and blue light produces white light.
  • Photons are packets of light.




The DS9 image display program can be downloaded at no cost from the following website:

There are many wonderful educational tools and resources at the Chandra Education Data Analysis Software and Activities; There is a lesson on how to make three-color images using a few selected images from Chandra’s database. The user is limited to only those objects and must download another program, ImageJ, to produce the final image. This lesson describes how to make a three-color image using only DS9.


  • 1 x 3-color visible image
  • 1 x 3-color infrared image

Published: 06 August, 2013

Fun Fact

Latest research tells us that, on average, there is at least one planet for every star in the galaxy. That's billions of planets out there, just waiting to be found.