Why Space Probes Still Use Black & White Cameras in the 21st Century

Vitenskap og teknologi

Scientists put a lot of thought into the design of instruments to send on spacecraft to explore other worlds, they can't change anything once the spacecraft is launched so they need to maximize the science return from their payload where mass limits are critical.
Despite colour cameras being the norm with consumer hardware, there's technical advantages to using completely different technologies for taking images in deep space. Instead of using off the shelf colour cameras the preference is for monochrome image sensors with filter wheels that can be switched through to take multi colour images through a slower, more accurate process.


  • Jathin S
    Jathin S16 timer siden

    I think the answer is because probes are on mars and we are on earth. We are developed but probes didn't invent colors on mars. So i thinks that's the reason.

  • Al
    Al6 dager siden

    Professional astrophotography is more often then not done with pure monochrome cameras for these reasons

  • Κώστας Λουπασάκης
    Κώστας Λουπασάκης28 dager siden

    The answer I got out of this: “Because film is hard to transport back home”

  • micmardini
    micmardini28 dager siden

    You are a god of knowledge. From Canada

  • ScottGinATL
    ScottGinATLMåned siden

    Thanks again Scott!

  • redtails
    redtailsMåned siden

    for your interest: the old tech lives on in photomultiplier tubes, for situations where a low signal needs to be captured at scientific accuracy. You see them in high-end fluorescent laser-scanning microscopes. The "color" filtering is done by exotic dichromatic color wheels. Same sort of tricks needs to be applied for getting color images

  • Mech Magesh
    Mech MageshMåned siden

    I don't care about color. Color blind 😎

  • cobloaf1
    cobloaf1Måned siden

    Poosh broom

  • Kayak & Coastal Fishing
    Kayak & Coastal FishingMåned siden

    Really cant focus on what your saying sorry. im trying to take the information in, but all my brain is doing is asking ....... "what does your shirt say?"

  • B Vyner
    B VynerMåned siden

    Wait What???? They were using old cameras and because it was getting hard to source parts they changed to color? Because it was easier just to put an old camera in without redesigning it for this many years....... Shut these people down and give all their funding to Space X

  • Trebor


    Måned siden

    they used sensors which were reliable, and well tested and which would work. if you want to throw money away on something that would break instantly then go for it.... but use your own money

  • Carl Siemens
    Carl SiemensMåned siden

    Colour/filter wheels are literally the oldest trick in "the book." Photographers have been doing this to take colour images for (approximately) as long as photography has existed.

  • Bob Blum
    Bob BlumMåned siden

    Scott, I loved it when you were talking about the differences between CCDs and CMOS image sensors. I actually worked with memory boards for microprocessor-based systems that used Fairchild CCDs for RAM and Texas Instruments magnetic bubble memory for non-volatile storage. Both gave us quality headaches, the technologies were too new. We ended up switching to DRAM because they were getting cheaper and higher density. But as you said, those CCDs still have a use, the right tool for the job.

  • nobody nowhere
    nobody nowhereMåned siden

    They use monochrome sensor because they have superior resolution, bayers interpolate 2/3rd of the information. And produce images that are soft and lack detail. This is why using monochrome sensors with color filters is the way to go, if you want quality.

  • Prince Tamrac
    Prince TamracMåned siden

    I love your content, but i hate the way you say "white"

  • BrightBulb Photography
    BrightBulb PhotographyMåned siden

    The answer, I thought was bandwidth and contrast.

  • david bright
    david brightMåned siden

    I kind of wonder what would happen if we made updated version of the voyager 1 and 2 probes with current technology

  • Dark Lizzy
    Dark LizzyMåned siden

    Because NASA are emo kids that think they're artists on Instagram.

  • Jawad Khalil
    Jawad KhalilMåned siden

    You saying that hey couldn't stick a gro pro ? Just one go pro ? Bs

  • Fauzan Nr
    Fauzan NrMåned siden

    Transferring data in space is so expensive, more data equal more energy

  • Hello Kitty Lover Man!
    Hello Kitty Lover Man!Måned siden

    "Try to guess"? No, just _guess._ Guessing by itself is already a mere try.

  • soundtrancecloud
    soundtrancecloudMåned siden

    What until a private company gets there then the photos will get really good.

  • eli Dowling
    eli Dowling2 måneder siden

    I work in broadcast TV and we use a third kind of colour sensor. A 3 way prison spilts light onto 3 separate monochrome sensors. Full colour, and luminance resolution. It's not all sunshine and roses though: Super expensive prisim(we had one break... Cost was 3/4 of the camera for a new optical unit), larger bulkier cameras and probably a lot more energy use for the 3x sensors. I'm pretty sure Scott would have known this but left it out because it's a little unrelated.

    MIMIK2 måneder siden

    Also, ​there are cameras that split light with a prism to record multiple (R G & B, or even more!) wavelengths in each pixel. Example: www.apertus.org/what-is-debayering-article-october-2015

  • usquanigo
    usquanigo2 måneder siden

    Push Broom just made me think of something - can you say Burglar Alarm? lol noprojects.info/camera/video/tJuPe9JtfGqKdX8 ;)

  • Dan Frederiksen
    Dan Frederiksen2 måneder siden

    Scott, you are lying to your audience and betraying them. The truth is the use really bad cameras because they are incompetent and treasonously unambitious. Doing science doens't mean you are limited to 5$ board cameras from 1995. Don't be such a status quo sheep.

  • Ponther
    Ponther2 måneder siden

    Did anyone else think that this was a tom scott video so they clicked on it to scroll through comments but after 30 seconds got bored or just me

  • Matt M.
    Matt M.2 måneder siden

    Sorry, some correction… The main difference between CCD & CMOS sensors is the semiconductor type. CCDs are NMOS semiconductors which were quite common in the 1970ies and 80ies. There are no fabs with the support of the NMOS and todays structures sizes. The advantage of CCDs is the lower image noise in comparison to CMOS. Semiconductor fabs supporting todays structure sizes are producing CMOS devices only. Btw, the last Nikon DSLR with CCD is the D60, which was released in 2008.

  • Tommi Honkonen
    Tommi Honkonen2 måneder siden

    there is actually a second filter wheel which has a filter to remove the aliens

  • Adawg 303
    Adawg 3032 måneder siden

    The proper term for this camera technology is “photovoltaic transducer”

  • David Triphon
    David Triphon2 måneder siden

    What is that T-shirt? Is it trying to say something? It must, right? That can't be random.

  • archie4oz
    archie4oz2 måneder siden

    One other nice thing about CCDs is you generally don't suffer from rolling shutter.

  • OgaDuby
    OgaDuby2 måneder siden

    anyone deciphered the message on the shirt yet?

  • Gin Mador
    Gin Mador2 måneder siden

    Say cool whip I dare you

  • Edward Paulsen
    Edward Paulsen2 måneder siden

    A most excellent walk through of the technologies and the pros and cons of each... far too many "conspiracy theorists" barely understand the real world around them, much less the technology that has been made... This sheds a lot of light on those little cockroaches...

  • GameDirection
    GameDirection2 måneder siden

    So, your camera sucks. Apple just uses tricks to make it look good. Terrible go scientific reasons. Dont worry you will get your colored iphone photos soon enough.

  • NeoRipshaft
    NeoRipshaft2 måneder siden

    lol if you think that's cumbersome, you should look at how our eyes do it - it's a freakin mess. But it does follow the same physical principles - the reason we have such abysmal color resolution is because our color receptors are a tiny fraction of our photoreceptors. We're also of an evolutionary line that only has one fovea, which especially sucks for vision.... but I mostly wish we'd kept our infrared vision, that would have been awesome.

  • Colin Maynard
    Colin Maynard2 måneder siden

    NASA did look back after switching to solid state cameras...I recall Cassini took pictures of the Earth from it’s Saturn orbit. 😉

  • Lone Warri0r
    Lone Warri0r2 måneder siden

    So wait, we have all this technology but we can't figure out how to take pictures simultaneously with these science cameras to prevent false coloring?

  • Travis Smith
    Travis Smith2 måneder siden

    And for those that don't care. We have the: CPS_Emitron The "Emmy Award", got it's name from the component that was used in early TV cameras to produce the picture, which is then transmitted & reproduced on the CRT "Cathode Ray Tube" used in TVs/ Video monitors before "flat screens" were cost effective. Think of an old school TV. Signal comes in & picture is generated. Reverse that. "picture" hits a "screen" and is converted to a signal the TV, "plays back." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_camera_tube#Orthicon_and_CPS_Emitron

  • Supernovah ' M
    Supernovah ' M2 måneder siden

    Is the shirt 1401?

  • Charles Elmi
    Charles Elmi2 måneder siden

    Love coming here and learning actual real stuff, from someone with real knowledge. Thank you for sharing all this!

  • Cuthbert Milligen
    Cuthbert Milligen2 måneder siden

    Scott, re: photography, you do realise that your lighting is pretty terrible. Your shiny scalp is overexposed and your face (the most important part of the image) is basically in shadow. May I humbly suggest that you turn off that light on the ceiling and place a diffuse light source (or two) top front right (& left). Your content however is first class! Thank you!

  • Kyle Stubblefield
    Kyle Stubblefield2 måneder siden

    I came for the KSP, stayed for the science.

  • Ironnerd 88
    Ironnerd 882 måneder siden

    I'm pretty sure the Viking landers used CCD's. The problem with them was that they were really slow, so not at all useful for a Voyagers launched 2 years later.

  • Scott Manley

    Scott Manley

    2 måneder siden

    It used individual photodiodes.

  • Chris Kwakernaat
    Chris Kwakernaat2 måneder siden

    How about data.. i would think a black and white image would use less data to send than a color one..

  • John Thimakis
    John Thimakis2 måneder siden

    Thanks for sharing. 😉👌🏼

  • El Hungaro
    El Hungaro2 måneder siden

    Love his videos but.... This was mostly way over my head 🥴.... Thanks just the same sir Scott 👍👍😁

  • Maximus Lopez
    Maximus Lopez2 måneder siden

    Blir skye

  • Richard Wicks
    Richard Wicks2 måneder siden

    The Foveon x3 sensor doesn't use a filter. It has several photodetectors on top of one another. It's got better performance in low light as well. Doesn't matter. It's not like these Mars missions accomplish much of anything. They cost money, that's about it.

  • B3rnard
    B3rnard2 måneder siden

    Let me guess it's too much data to send color photos and you can see things better in black and white

  • Charles Yuditsky
    Charles Yuditsky2 måneder siden

    Holy Jesus, Mars in Technicolor?

  • rockyo59
    rockyo592 måneder siden

    How about a real time video camera and real time audio

  • bruchpilot747
    bruchpilot7472 måneder siden

    people have gotten so used to have basically an unlimited (it's not, I know but for the everyday purposes it pretty much is) amount of power available with bandwidths high enough they can stream 8k video. Give them a solar panel that put out just as much as the rover has available, give them a connection as slow as the one the rover has to its availability.... They'll realise very soon that to get speedy data you need to take compromises and that is disregarding color.... since you mentioned ccd and cmos: cmos is usually rolling shutter and ccd is global shutter which is better for high speed photography. Foveon imitates how "old school" film used to work, actually.

  • Adrien Pinard
    Adrien Pinard2 måneder siden

    The adamant sofa inversely level because difference spectroscopically include vice a roasted bulldozer. royal, trashy bit

  • Roberto Prieto
    Roberto Prieto2 måneder siden

    Usually a line scan sensor with only one pixel is enough since CCDs have much higher framerates than CMOS

  • 5Andysalive
    5Andysalive2 måneder siden

    fragile Voyager cameras barely lastet 1.5 decades :)

  • David Dennis
    David Dennis2 måneder siden

    I head up the test division for a company that makes CMOS color sensors. I know more about human perception of color than I ever dreamed I would. Very well explained. I’m impressed by the broad extent of your knowledge.

  • Phil Smith
    Phil Smith2 måneder siden

    The use of filter wheel is very common in Astrophotography too. And that’s also why there’s many files that needs to be compiled and adjusted in photoshop to have right proportion of each colors... and there it’s why Flat Earthers don’t understand that pretty much all photos in space are done with photoshop.

  • Azizan Ilias
    Azizan Ilias2 måneder siden

    We love 3d video,,,

  • Micah Kenneth8
    Micah Kenneth82 måneder siden

    Nasa 360 virtual camera tour of Mars is up for awhile by... Hugh Hou ...wow guess it's not that complicated after all

  • Kevin Schaefer
    Kevin Schaefer2 måneder siden

    "It's very easy to get a rock to sit still", unless you're under the sea, in which case you could ride 'em for miles

  • Aled Long
    Aled Long2 måneder siden

    There's plenty of colour images of devon island online...

  • Callum - カラム

    Callum - カラム

    2 måneder siden

    Oh no...

  • DenseAlloy
    DenseAlloy2 måneder siden

    😒 me when I realize Scott did this off the top of his head without a script. Of course he did. I can't riff about what I had for breakfast without popping the clutch and stalling out.

  • theFLCLguy
    theFLCLguy2 måneder siden

    Why do we science the way we science? Science.

  • theFLCLguy
    theFLCLguy2 måneder siden

    Most camera sensors are like billions of little solar panels. The do color by filtering lenses differently.

  • theFLCLguy
    theFLCLguy2 måneder siden

    You need a beard. A big Manley beard.

  • RFC3514
    RFC35142 måneder siden

    The advantages of CCD aren't just in signal to noise (those are kind of gone, nowadays), they also make it easier to build buffered sensors that don't suffer from rolling shutter issues. That's obviously not a problem when taking pictures of static rocks, though.

  • David Jordan
    David Jordan2 måneder siden

    Good morning, Scott! Hey! Your T-shirts inside out…😂

  • Roy Sigurd Karlsbakk
    Roy Sigurd Karlsbakk2 måneder siden

    Great explaination of topics I thought I knew :)

  • Alex ______
    Alex ______2 måneder siden

    Could we discuss the Venera missions and their photos of Venus?

  • flamencoprof
    flamencoprof2 måneder siden

    I thought I was pretty well aware of the tech in CCDs, filters, etc. Turns out there is a reason I watch this channel. Thanks.

  • Dobromir Manchev
    Dobromir Manchev2 måneder siden

    As an amateur photographer, i found this video twice as interesting !

  • surfonaut
    surfonaut2 måneder siden

    Space Probes... good one. It's easier to do the CGI, because they're just not very good at it. Watch out! Probe coming to Uranus!

  • Bop


    2 måneder siden


  • Drake Snider
    Drake Snider2 måneder siden

    It bothers me that Abaddon's Gate is not with the rest.

  • evog35viii
    evog35viii2 måneder siden

    It doesn't even matter

  • wafflesnfalafel1
    wafflesnfalafel12 måneder siden

    dude - absolutely love it. I had no idea there is so much going on with the various digital image sensors.

  • Jon
    Jon2 måneder siden

    To add to the discussion about CCD vs CMOS, a bit of history might put things in perspective. CCD sensors were originally far more common than CMOS sensors and this makes sense because CCDs have a number of technical benefits not least of which that they are simpler to understand and implement. Also CCD stands for Charge Coupled Device which in fact describes how they work (in 2 words). The fact that CMOS is named for the manufacturing process and not for how they work is telling, as the original motivation was cost by leveraging the same manufacturing process that has already become ubiquitous in other digital electronics i.e. the goal was to figure out how to make an image sensor using CMOS rather than starting with a theory of operation and working to the manufacturing process. The problem with that approach is that CMOS doesn't inherently make a good image sensor and this is evident in early CMOS cameras. However CMOS has benefited from large R&D budgets both dedicated specifically to image sensors (e.g. technologies to mitigate the shortcomings of CMOS) and more generally to the electronics industry as a whole (e.g. ever shrinking process nodes which translates to higher pixel density and more processing capacity per pixel).

  • Damian Games
    Damian Games2 måneder siden

    fun fact, there are more green than red and blue on most standard displays, because our eyes have evolved to detect more shades of green due to plants being green, so a lot of the environment we have evolved in was green

  • Alexander Böhn
    Alexander Böhn2 måneder siden

    FUCK YES FOVEON SENSOR SHOUTOUT!!! I was watching this whole thing wondering if that thing (which I consider awesome just for, like, the production of Earthly images) would merit a mention in this imaging-sensor roundup by the Great Manly himself. I repeat, fuck yes!!!

  • Charles Taylor
    Charles Taylor2 måneder siden

    What's up with the shirt?

  • Charles Taylor
    Charles Taylor2 måneder siden

    Thanks Scott, you have and excellent way of expanding our knowledge on how things work.

  • FuckinGoogleIDont want to use my real name
    FuckinGoogleIDont want to use my real name2 måneder siden

    I don't mean to sound like a dick, but am I going crazy or is Scott looking a little rough lately?

  • TheDark Dragon
    TheDark Dragon2 måneder siden

    Answer: Money/Effeciency

  • Lane Hymel
    Lane Hymel2 måneder siden

    Could you please talk about the recent updates from Blue Origin in one of your videos? How does their approach to rocket engineering change their opportunities in the space industry especially with the recent progress of starship.

  • Uwe Könnigsstaddt
    Uwe Könnigsstaddt2 måneder siden

    2 billion is a lot of money.? Try 1.9 trillion COVID-19 money. Fiat money, that is

  • Raymond Saint
    Raymond Saint2 måneder siden

    What do you think about neoluddite campaigners on Twitter who started hashtag "insteadofsendingtomars" or something?

  • Danny Bell
    Danny Bell2 måneder siden

    I watch a Scott Manley video every time I want to feel really dumb, and it works astonishingly well!

  • XRS Systems
    XRS Systems2 måneder siden

    Why are Perseverance rover images and information being released to the public so slowly ????

  • Chris Rigoni Tattooer
    Chris Rigoni Tattooer2 måneder siden

    Thank You 🙏✌️

  • SubVersa
    SubVersa2 måneder siden

    As a photographer, I didn't learn anything new, I'm happy you mentioned sigma tho, I hope their next sensor works out well, although they wont say much, probably wont be out for a while...

  • viperfan7
    viperfan72 måneder siden

    Is that a parallax robot I see in the background there?

  • Tom and Space
    Tom and Space2 måneder siden

    With Scott's videos, you're learning something (or several things) every episode.

  • Sausage Finger
    Sausage Finger2 måneder siden

    Complimentary Metal Oxide Semi Conductor. Yeah... I remembered something

  • FromOnHigh
    FromOnHigh2 måneder siden

    Thank you. Just, thank you!

  • Alain Sylvestre
    Alain Sylvestre2 måneder siden

    too complex.

  • Eric Kaufman
    Eric Kaufman2 måneder siden

    Digital imagine is the hardest thing to grasp.... it is voodoo. The most difficult class I ever took was graduate digital microscopy at the University of Oklahoma, where I got my Ph.D. I can assure you the lecturer was a savant when is comes to this material and he is the only reason I understand polarization and diffraction (which means you really don't understand it). And the EASIEST part of this class and projects was why all cameras are black and white. 256 Monochromatic FTW. Oh you like to think you see color pictures... well, then you can thank the filters. Factor in computation, powering the lasers, etc etc etc. Hell you couldn't take your cell phone into the lab because the radio waves would fuck the single photon counters, Seriously, digital microscopy is WAY more difficult than anything electron based.

  • DSO Imager
    DSO Imager2 måneder siden

    Many amateur astrophotographers use monochrome cameras with filter wheels. Filters include Lum, red, green, blue, Hydrogen Alpha, Oxygen III, and Sulfer II :)

  • Radicaleyes
    Radicaleyes2 måneder siden

    More pixels dedicated to greyscale gradient and finer pixels using the monochrome sensors.. Plus 3 fewer pixels (RGB) means less to render. However with the latest 108+megapixel color CMOS Sensors it's not as big of a deal as it was back when Hubble (HST) was launched.

  • Gordon Freeman
    Gordon Freeman2 måneder siden

    You get more resolution from a monochrome sensor, as you don't have to split a pixel into RGB sub pixels.

  • Timothy Campbell
    Timothy Campbell2 måneder siden

    What exactly are the type of filters shown at 5:38?