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A 3D Flight through the Orion Nebula - AstroViz

Primary July 22nd, 2020

This visualization explores the Orion Nebula using both visible and infrared light. The sequence begins with a wide-field view of the sky showing the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, then zooms down to the scale of the Orion Nebula. The visible light observation (from the Hubble Space Telescope) and the infrared light observation (from the Spitzer Space Telescope) are compared first in two-dimensional images, and then in three-dimensional models.

As the camera flies into the star-forming region, the sequence cross-fades back and forth between the visible and infrared views. The glowing gaseous landscape has been illuminated and carved by the high energy radiation and strong stellar winds from the massive hot stars in the central cluster. The infrared observations generally show cooler temperature dust at a deeper layer of the nebula that extends well beyond the visible image. In addition, the infrared showcases many faint stars that shine primarily at longer wavelengths. The higher resolution visible observations show finer details including the wispy bow shocks and tadpole-shaped proplyds. In this manner, the movie illustrates the contrasting features uncovered by multi-wavelength astronomy.

CREDITS: NASA, ESA, and F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, J. DePasquale, L. Hustak, L. Frattare, M. Robberto, M. Gennaro (STScI), R. Hurt (Caltech/IPAC), M. Kornmesser (ESA), A. Fujii; Acknowledgement: R. Gendler; Music: “Dvorak – Serenade for Strings Op22 in E Major larghetto”, performed by The Advent Chamber Orchestra, CC BY-SA

More Resources

See the images from NASA's telescopes that were used to create this 3D fly-through:
AP-Orion Hubble

Orion Nebula as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light

AP-Orion Spitzer

Orion Nebula as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light

AstroPix Orion Search

Many faces of the Orion Nebula seen by a variety of telescopes


About AstroViz

Astronomical images are appreciated for their beauty, but they are also our windows into the vast and complex universe around us. Understanding how these abstract blends of color and form represent real, three dimensional structures is not always easy, even for astronomers who have spent their career studying them.

The goal of the AstroViz ("Astronomy Visualization") project is to take images from across the spectrum of light, and using the best current scientific understanding, extrapolate them into 3D forms that take us on virtual journeys to these distant locations. These cinematic experiences let everyone see how these are not just pictures... they are places. The stories of these places increase awareness, understanding, and enthusiasm for the universe.

AstroViz is one of a multitude of projects from NASA's Universe of Learning, which connects the public to the data, discoveries, and experts that spans NASA Astrophysics.

Browse all of the AstroViz videos at NASA's Universe of Learning