For years I have assumed that the beautiful photos of galaxies, stars and exploding planets were artistic renderings, not what was photographed by the Hubble or other telescopes. Wired magazine published this report that confirms my belief:
Wired (5/12, Mann) also profiled the work of "visualization scientist Robert Hurt of Caltech" and Tim Pyle, who takes discoveries from instruments like the Kepler telescopes and creates "exoplanet renderings" for NASA. The article noted that while the data from Kepler can’t indicate what any exoplanet is like in reality, the team makes a "reasonable" likeness based on how far a planet is from its parent star and how "Earth-like" it is thought to be. When it came to the recent discovery of Kepler-186f, NASA public affairs officer Michele Johnson said, "We know we’re going to have people running by a newspaper stand, and seeing a headline that reads ‘NASA finds another Earth’ with this graphic next to it. ... So we wanted to be very smart about the little we do know, saying this is our best interpretation, with a healthy amount of imagination as well."
This is a continuation of the process where artists take a skull and create what the person looked like in real life. They have no idea but make it look like a "prehistoric" person. I have a couple of friends who should sue museums that show "neolithic" people who look just like them.
I often wonder just how much astronomers know about the far away bodies that show up in their telescopes as a dot of light that is recorded on a film. From that dot they create a story about what the body ought to be, not what it is. It is interesting that all of the planets in our solar system can not support life, but it is assumed that some time in their millions of years of history that they had water and if they had water, life must have originated although there is no evidence that complex life on earth came from natural causes. It is much too complicated and contains massive information in every cell that controls life.