By combining the visible and infrared capabilities of NASA’s Spitzer and NASA/ESA Hubble space telescopes, a team of specialists at NASA’s Universe of Learning program has created a spectacular, three-dimensional, fly-through movie of the famous Orion Nebula, a diffuse nebula in the constellation Orion.
The Orion Nebula can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch surrounding the star Theta Orionis in the Hunter’s Sword, below Orion’s belt.
Also known as NGC 1976, Messier 42 (M42), LBN 974, and Sharpless 281, it spans about 24 light-years and is located approximately 1,350 light-years away from Earth.
At only 2 million years old, the nebula is an ideal laboratory for studying young stars and stars that are still forming. It offers a glimpse of what might have happened when the Sun was born 4.6 billion years ago.
“Being able to fly through the Orion Nebula’s tapestry in 3D gives people a much better sense of what the Universe is really like,” said Space Telescope Science Institute’s visualization scientist Dr. Frank Summers, who led the team that developed the 3D video.
“By adding depth and structure to the amazing images, this fly-through helps elucidate the Universe for the public, both educating and inspiring.”
“Looking at the Universe in infrared light gives striking context for the more familiar visible-light views. 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,” said Dr. Robert Hurt, lead visualization scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech.
The 3D video provides a look at the fantastic topography of the Orion Nebula.
A torrent of ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from the massive, central stars of the Trapezium star cluster have carved out a cavernous bowl-like cavity in the wall of a giant cloud of cold molecular hydrogen laced with dust.
The astronomers and visualization scientists worked together to make a 3D model of the depths of this cavernous region, like plotting mountains and valleys on the ocean floor. Colorful Hubble and Spitzer images were then overlaid on the terrain.
The video takes the viewer on a breathtaking flight through the nebula, following the contours of the gas and dust.
By toggling between the Hubble and Spitzer’s views, the movie shows strikingly different details of the nebula.
The visualization is one of a new generation of products and experiences being developed by NASA’s Universe of Learning program. 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.
Source: Sci News