Science

Dive through the heart of a nebula in a wondrous NASA video

Dive through the heart of a nebula in a wondrous NASA video”

NASA has released a 3-D visualization of the Orion Nebula, which you should watch with the sound on (using headphones; don't be a monster) because in addition to being educational, the whole thing is incredibly soothing.

On Thursday (11 January 2018), the space agency's Universe of Learning programme released a three-dimensional visualisation that not only showcases the distant nebula unprecedented detail but also lets viewers dive into it - "up close and personal". It's the "best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of the Orion Nebula", according to Space Telescope Science Institute experts cited in the video.

Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42, is one of the brightest nebulae of the Milky Way galaxy and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky.

Located 1,350 light-years away, the Orion Nebula is a relatively nearby laboratory for studying the star formation process across a wide range, from opulent giant stars to diminutive red dwarf stars and elusive, faint brown dwarfs.

"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 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 video pans through ethereal colorful gases and dust that form mountains and cavernous valleys, with baby stars interspersed. It offers a glimpse of what might have happened when the Sun was born 4.6 billion years ago.

The two telescopes provide 2D images of cosmic objects, so the creators had to rely on both "scientific knowledge and scientific intuition" to create the 3D tour. The effort combines a direct connection to the science and scientists of NASA's Astrophysics missions with attention to audience needs to enable youth, families, and lifelong learners to explore fundamental questions in science, experience how science is done, and discover the universe for themselves. "And in infrared light, the most prominent feature is water".

The result allows viewers to get a more complete idea of the nebula's atmosphere, compared to a static image from a telescope.

The other components of the nebula were isolated into image layers and modeled separately.



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