Thermal Imaging using NASA's Infrared Focal Plane Array Technology
I've already introduced the notion of colour temperature and how that relates to seeing using an object's 'heat' as well as its light.
Back in the mid-1990s, the Infrared Focal Plane Array Technology Group at JPL produced a thermal imaging camera that supercools the sensor and still looks rather like an ordinary camcorder. It uses a technology called a Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP for short) and at the time their thermal imaging camera was the world's smallest.
Here are some more QWIP images that Mark sent me. The first is of a colleague of his named Tom Wynne, and you can see the warm blood in the veins in his arm showing lighter than the rest of the arm. Notice how the glasses appear opaque/black because they are opaque at these wavelengths and are cold, not because they are sunglasses. Then there's a colour image of an electrical transformer. Blue is 'cool' and red is 'hot'.
The two images of aeroplanes were taken at Los Angeles Airport and clearly show the heat of the jet plume from the engines. This is not visible in normal light although you would see the refractive disturbance caused by the strong hot air flow. The other interesting thing is how hot (bright) the tyres are on takeoff.
These images are at about half the resolution of the originals but you can see the level of detail here.
At these wavelengths glass is opaque, thin plastics—such as baloons or bin bags—are transparent and the warmth of a hand lingers as a thermal handprint for a while after the hand is removed. If you thought near-infrared was surreal then the far side is even more so.