By combining actual scientific data with techniques used in Hollywood, researchers with NASA and other institutions have produced the most detailed multi-wavelength visualization ever produced of the Orion Nebula. Traveling at close to the speed of light, the three-minute journey will take you through a distant stellar nursery where some of the Universe’s youngest stars are born.

To make this video, a team from NASA’s Universe of Learning program, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and Caltech/IPAC combined visible and infrared scans captured by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The video shows the Orion Nebula in both visible and infrared light to convey the region’s many dynamic and complex features.

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Located 1,350 light-years away, the Orion Nebula is one of the most spectacular features of deep space. It’s just 2 million years old—a short blip in the larger scheme of things. It’s an excellent patch of space for astronomers to investigate, as it shows what our immediate neighborhood looked like some 4.6 billion years ago when our Sun and Earth popped into existence.

Screen grab of the new video. (Image: NASA, ESA, F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, J. DePasquale, L. Frattare, and M. Robberto (STScI), and R. Hurt (Caltech/IPAC))

Also known as M42, it’s the closest region of massive star formation to Earth (you can actually see it with the naked eye just to the south of Orion’s Belt in the Orion constellation). This nebula measures about 24 light years across, so the journey conveyed in the new video would require an observer to travel at or even past the speed of light. Watching the video you’ll see newborn stars, glowing clouds of dust and gas heated by intense radiation, and oddly shaped gaseous orbs surrounding protoplanetary disks.

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This stunning video isn’t just for eye candy—it’s a way to both study the universe and to educate the general public. The developers of the video will make it available to planetariums and other learning centers worldwide.

“Being able to fly through the nebula’s tapestry in three dimensions gives people a much better sense of what the universe is really like,” explained team leader Frank Summers in a statement. “By adding depth and structure to the amazing images, this fly-through helps elucidate the universe for the public, both educating and inspiring.”

[Hubble Space Telescope]

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