A spectacular new video from NASA shows the Orion Nebula up close and in three dimensions. The three-minute long movie literally makes the viewers feel like they are actually traveling through the interstellar cloud.

Visualization specialists and astronomers from the U.S. Space Agency’s Universe of Learning Program created an unprecedented 3D fly-through view of the Orion Nebula by combining the infrared and visible vision of the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

The 3D video takes spectators on a breathtaking journey through gaseous envelopes that surround protoplanetary disks, glowing clouds, and newborn stars. Teams from Pasadena’s Caltech/IPAC and Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute used a combination of real scientific imagery, other data, and Hollywood techniques to create the most detailed visualization of the Orion Nebula.

Frank Summers, who is a visualization scientist from STScI, explained that people will be able to get a much better sense of what the cosmos is actually like by being able to fly through the tapestry of the nebula in 3D. The 3D fly-through also helps in elucidating the universe for the public by adding structure and depth to the beautiful images, all of which makes for an inspiring and educating experience.

“Looking at the universe in infrared light gives striking context for the more familiar visible-light views,” said lead visualization scientist Robert Hurt, who is from IPAC. “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.”

Capturing The Orion Nebula In A Three-Dimension Movie

Scientific intuition and scientific knowledge guided the 3D interpretation for creating the movie. Hurt and Summers worked with experts to study the structure within the nebula, beginning with the two-dimensional Spitzer and Hubble images. The duo first came up with a visible-light surface, and then the infrared features’ underlying structure was created.

A special rendering code was written to facilitate the efficient combination of the millions of semi-transparent elements of gas, to give an ethereal feel to the nebula. The nebula’s other components were isolated into layers of image and modeled separately. The other components included the veil of the nebula, bow shocks, protoplanetary disks, and stars. The gaseous nebula and the layers were combined together after being rendered to create the visualization.

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky that can be seen by the naked eye. A nebula is an interstellar cloud of ionized gases, helium, hydrogen, and dust.

The Orion Nebula is approximately 2 million years old and located around 1,350 light-years away in the constellation Orion. Astronomers find the Orion Nebula the perfect laboratory for observing stars that are young or are still forming, which also gives a glimpse into what might have taken place during the birth of the sun 4.6 billion years ago.

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