This awesome image of nebula IC 1396 was created by J-P Metsävainio, an astrophotographer from Finland.He started with an image he snapped of the nebula, located about 2,400 light-years away and measuring more than 100 light-years across. He then used some special computer modelling to make educated guesses about the nebula’s 3D dimensions, producing this .gif.
Even though it might not be completely accurate the image is still pretty mindblowing. As Phil Plait describes on his Bad Astronomy blog:
… it gives you a sense of the shape and composition of the gas cloud. The star in the centre is the ionizing source; that is, it’s a hot, young, massive star blasting out ultraviolet light, and that’s what’s making the nebula glow. The dark ribbons are filaments of dust which absorb optical light (the kind of light we see). Many of them seem to point toward the central star. That’s because at their head is a dense clump of matter, and that’s getting eaten away by the light and fierce winds from that hot star. Material from the clump gets blown back and away from the star, like sandbars in a stream.
The colours come from the star’s interaction with the gas cloud. In the centre the energy from the star made the oxygen glow blue, while further way, the hydrogen glows red.
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