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.
But based on data from the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, we now have a feel for what it may be like to fly through one of the most famous ones - the Orion nebula.
The video pans through ethereal colorful gases and dust that form mountains and cavernous valleys, with baby stars interspersed. The other components included the veil of the nebula, bow shocks, protoplanetary disks, and stars. "By adding depth and structure to the incredible images, this fly-through helps elucidate the universe for the public, both educating and inspiring", added Summers.
One of the sky's brightest nebulas, the Orion Nebula is visible to the naked eye. Robert Hurt, lead visualization scientist at IPAC, explained that visualizing the universe in infrared light consisting of multiple wavelengths gives a striking context to the visible light views, which everyone is familiar with.
The Orion Nebula is an area of active star formation, and people on Earth can spot it by looking for the middle star-like bright spot in the sword held by the Orion constellation. At only 2 million years old, the nebula is an ideal laboratory for studying young stars and stars that are still forming. The Hubble space telescope captures light in the visible range seen by humans, as well as longer and shorter wavelengths in the ultraviolet and near-infrared ranges. Starting with the two-dimensional Hubble and Spitzer images, Summers and Hurt worked with experts to analyze the structure inside the nebula.
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 visualization was created by scientists at STScI and Caltech/IPAC as part of NASA's Universe of Learning program.
In the video, the video the view of the Orion Nebula changes back and forth from visible to infrared.
"The main thing is to give the viewer an experiential understanding, so that they have a way to interpret the images from telescopes", Summers said.