NASA Releases a Striking Video Tour of the Orion Nebula
Have you ever wanted to fly through space? In a non-lethal way, of course. And you'd probably have to pick a specific destination, since you might have a pretty uneventful trip if choose an empty pocket of space.
Luckily, NASA's Universe of Learning program has got you covered, by allowing you to take a tour of the nearby Orion nebula through the (relative) safety of YouTube. Using images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, Orion has been converted into a series of extremely impressive looking 3D models, which are turned into a simulation you can "travel" through.
In short, it's really cool. See the entire video tour below:
The Orion nebula is about 1,300 lightyears away from Earth, and is notably a stellar nursery where new stars are created. 1,300 lightyears is hardly close by, even by cosmic standards, but this is the nearest star-forming area to the Earth, so it's a great place to look at the thousands of stars being "born" inside it.
It's also a great resource for hints at how our sun might have looked in its earliest millennia. But since the sun is around 4.6 billions years old, it definitely wasn't formed by Orion, because even beyond the vast distance in between them, Orion is also a very young nebula at only 2 million years old.
The video travels through the nebula at close to the speed of light, which we'd have to be capable of by the time we could ever send real humans (or anything else) to explore Orion up close and personal. And it wouldn't look exactly like this video either, not to the naked eye.
That's because of the Spitzer Space Telescope's contributions, which is an infrared telescope capable of picking up many more details than a visible light telescope like Hubble can see. This means NASA can more easily show off the dimmer newborn stars, intensely radiated and glowing clouds, and the "tadpole-shaped gaseous envelopes surrounding protoplanetary disks," according to NASA.
According to the Space Telescope Science Institute's visualization scientist Frank Summers, who said the following in a statement:
"Hollywood techniques" were used in putting together the video, which consists of painstakingly crafted 3D models with the Hubble and Spitzer images overlaid on top. The end result is the cinematic, multi-wavelength spaceflight video that you've likely just seen, and that you really should watch if you made it this far without doing so.
The video was also released to planetariums, which is great, because footage like this deserves to be seen on a giant screen above your heads, rather than just a computer screen. But you'll have to make do with YouTube for now.