Space Telescopes Provide 3-D Journey Through Orion Nebula

Federico Mansilla
Enero 13, 2018

Bottom line: NASA has just released a new video visualization depicting a 3D trip through Orion Nebula.

In this short video, viewers slip through the colorful clouds, bright stars and detailed structures of the popular nebula. The video shows both "wispy bow shocks" (pile-ups of hot material caused by super-fast stars shooting through space, like how water appears to pile up in front of the bow of a boat) and "tadpole-shaped proplyds" (flattened disks that might one day be smoothed into round planets). The 3D fly-through also helps in elucidating the universe for the public by adding structure and depth to the handsome images, all of which makes for an inspiring and educating experience.

The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky that can be seen by the naked eye.

"Looking at the universe in infrared light gives striking context for the more familiar visible-light views", Robert Hurt, a lead visualization scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), said in the statement. The three-minute long movie literally makes the viewers feel like they are actually traveling through the interstellar cloud. "This movie provides a uniquely immersive chance to see how new features appear as we shift to wavelengths of light normally invisible to our eyes".

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The nebula is about 2 million years old and its stars are young, meaning that we have plenty to learn about their development and potential future as they grow. The Spitzer space telescope captures light in the mid-infrared to far-infrared range, capturing objects and structures that are lower in temperature than what Hubble sees.

Scientific intuition and scientific knowledge guided the 3D interpretation for creating the movie. "The program uses a "direct connection" to NASA science and scientists, to create content that "[enables] youth, families, and lifelong learners to explore fundamental questions in science, experience how science is done, and discover the universe for themselves".

In the video, the video the view of the Orion Nebula changes back and forth from visible to infrared.

The other components of the nebula were isolated into image layers and modeled separately. "It's a really wonderful thing when they can build a mental model in their head to transform the two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional scene".

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