Nebulae in 3D
I can’t upload all the animations to tumblr (in fact, they’re so big that the animation isn’t running on the one I did get uploaded), but they’re amazing.
I once saw this done with Hubble data in an OMNIMAX presentation (the one that combined Hubble images and the last upgrade mission), and it was amazing. All of these are jaw-dropping. Some are animated GIFs like this. Some are back-and-forth video animations on YouTube.
Click through for all of them: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/02/nebulas-in-3-d/

Nebulae in 3D

I can’t upload all the animations to tumblr (in fact, they’re so big that the animation isn’t running on the one I did get uploaded), but they’re amazing.

I once saw this done with Hubble data in an OMNIMAX presentation (the one that combined Hubble images and the last upgrade mission), and it was amazing. All of these are jaw-dropping. Some are animated GIFs like this. Some are back-and-forth video animations on YouTube.

Click through for all of them: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/02/nebulas-in-3-d/

polymath4ever
spaceplasma:

NGC 6914 and vdB 132 Region
These nebulae form the northern part of the γ Cygni nebulae. NGC 6914 is the name of the blue combined emission/reflection nebula around three stars near the center of the image, van den Bergh 132 designates the central one. Most of the other large red emission nebula patches in this image seem to belong to a huge supernova shell located in the next inner spiral arm of our galaxy. They are extremly faint. The nice colors of this attractive region remind on the Rho Ophiuchus Nebula Complex Region.
Credit: Walter Koprolin

spaceplasma:

NGC 6914 and vdB 132 Region

These nebulae form the northern part of the γ Cygni nebulae. NGC 6914 is the name of the blue combined emission/reflection nebula around three stars near the center of the image, van den Bergh 132 designates the central one. Most of the other large red emission nebula patches in this image seem to belong to a huge supernova shell located in the next inner spiral arm of our galaxy. They are extremly faint. The nice colors of this attractive region remind on the Rho Ophiuchus Nebula Complex Region.

Credit: Walter Koprolin

(via APOD: 2012 October 12 - Pan STARRS and Nebulae)
Click through. Just do it. I’m going to leave the explanation to the APOD editors:
Pan-STARRS and Nebulae Image Credit: PS1 Science Consortium - Processing: Nigel Metcalfe, Gene Magnier and Peter Draper

Explanation: A single image from the world’s most powerful survey instrument captured this spectacular skyview. Looking toward Sagittarius, the scene spans nearly 3 degrees or six times the width of the Full Moon. At bottom, upper right, and lower left it covers the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20), and NGC 6559, in the crowded, dusty starfields of the central Milky Way. The adopted color scheme shows dust reddened starlight in red hues and normally red emission from hydrogen atoms in green. Built and operated by the Pan-STARRS project, the instrument features a 1.4 gigapixel (billion pixel) digital camera and telescope. Pan-STARRS, the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, is intended to scan the skies for potentially dangerous near-earth asteroids and comets, exploring the Universe with a unique high resolution, wide field view

(via APOD: 2012 October 12 - Pan STARRS and Nebulae)

Click through. Just do it. I’m going to leave the explanation to the APOD editors:

Pan-STARRS and Nebulae 
Image Credit: PS1 Science Consortium - Processing: Nigel Metcalfe, Gene Magnier and Peter Draper

Explanation: A single image from the world’s most powerful survey instrument captured this spectacular skyview. Looking toward Sagittarius, the scene spans nearly 3 degrees or six times the width of the Full Moon. At bottom, upper right, and lower left it covers the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20), and NGC 6559, in the crowded, dusty starfields of the central Milky Way. The adopted color scheme shows dust reddened starlight in red hues and normally red emission from hydrogen atoms in green. Built and operated by the Pan-STARRS project, the instrument features a 1.4 gigapixel (billion pixel) digital camera and telescope. Pan-STARRS, the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, is intended to scan the skies for potentially dangerous near-earth asteroids and comets, exploring the Universe with a unique high resolution, wide field view

(via Ceci *est* une pipe | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)
Wow! The @ESO folks  (#ESO50years) have captured this amazing shot of the “mouth” of the Pipe Nebula from the MPG/ESO 2.2m telescope in the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Another combination of dark and reflection nebula like the one in Corona Australis posted earlier, this one also shows the effect of seeing the light coming though (instead of being reflected off) a thinner amount of dust. Note the color of the background stars toward the edges of the dark nebula. The light is still being scattered with a blue preference, but that means that the blue reflection light would be seen from a vantage point on the other side of the nebula. Instead, we see the redder light that manages to get through the thin spots in the dust.
As Phil says, this is a huge complex of interstellar gas and dust, and there are stars forming inside of it. In fact, the stars we see lighting up the reflecting parts of the nebula are newly formed stars that just happen to be on “our side” of the complex cloud of dust particles.
As if all that weren’t enough, this is just a zoom on the one part of the Pipe Nebula. Here’s the full thing, which includes catalog members Barnard 59 (the part in the image above), Barnard 65-67, and Barnard 78:

This is, again, from the folks at the European Southern Observatory.
One final cool thing. See the fuzzy stars in the middle of Barnard 59? Those aren’t background stars that are so bright they’re shining through. Those are stars being born right before your eyes! (Or, being born 600-700 years ago, as the nebula is about that many light-years away.)

(via Ceci *est* une pipe | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Wow! The @ESO folks  (#ESO50years) have captured this amazing shot of the “mouth” of the Pipe Nebula from the MPG/ESO 2.2m telescope in the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Another combination of dark and reflection nebula like the one in Corona Australis posted earlier, this one also shows the effect of seeing the light coming though (instead of being reflected off) a thinner amount of dust. Note the color of the background stars toward the edges of the dark nebula. The light is still being scattered with a blue preference, but that means that the blue reflection light would be seen from a vantage point on the other side of the nebula. Instead, we see the redder light that manages to get through the thin spots in the dust.

As Phil says, this is a huge complex of interstellar gas and dust, and there are stars forming inside of it. In fact, the stars we see lighting up the reflecting parts of the nebula are newly formed stars that just happen to be on “our side” of the complex cloud of dust particles.

As if all that weren’t enough, this is just a zoom on the one part of the Pipe Nebula. Here’s the full thing, which includes catalog members Barnard 59 (the part in the image above), Barnard 65-67, and Barnard 78:

This is, again, from the folks at the European Southern Observatory.

One final cool thing. See the fuzzy stars in the middle of Barnard 59? Those aren’t background stars that are so bright they’re shining through. Those are stars being born right before your eyes! (Or, being born 600-700 years ago, as the nebula is about that many light-years away.)

(via APOD: 2012 September 27 - Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis)
Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Glittering Lights)
Corona Australis is the Southern Crown. (Here in the northern hemisphere, we have Bootes holding Corona Borealis in the night sky. Bootes, the herdsman, is the constellation that Arcturus is in. Remember “arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. Spica is in Virgo.)
In any case, there’s a crown in the skies of the southern hemisphere too, and that’s where you can see this interesting collection of dust, along with a globular cluster…at least in the same line of sight.
The blue light you see in the nebulae is from the stars embedded in the dust, and is being reflected back toward us. Blue light scatters more readily in the dust of the interstellar medium, so more blue than red is being bounced off the “grains” (think something the size of soot) back at us.
The dark areas are where the dust is so thick between our point of view and the star field that we can’t see through it in visible wavelengths. An infrared image would see through it, and into it, to see what’s going on.
The cloud of dust creating this nebular complex is about 500 light-years away, but the globular cluster in the upper left of the image, while appearing close, is actually about 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the dust and stars of the nebulae. They’re very old, gravitationally bound collections of stars that orbit the galaxy, but not necessarily in the galactic plane. This one is NGC 6729.

(via APOD: 2012 September 27 - Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis)

Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis 
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Glittering Lights)

Corona Australis is the Southern Crown. (Here in the northern hemisphere, we have Bootes holding Corona Borealis in the night sky. Bootes, the herdsman, is the constellation that Arcturus is in. Remember “arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. Spica is in Virgo.)

In any case, there’s a crown in the skies of the southern hemisphere too, and that’s where you can see this interesting collection of dust, along with a globular cluster…at least in the same line of sight.

The blue light you see in the nebulae is from the stars embedded in the dust, and is being reflected back toward us. Blue light scatters more readily in the dust of the interstellar medium, so more blue than red is being bounced off the “grains” (think something the size of soot) back at us.

The dark areas are where the dust is so thick between our point of view and the star field that we can’t see through it in visible wavelengths. An infrared image would see through it, and into it, to see what’s going on.

The cloud of dust creating this nebular complex is about 500 light-years away, but the globular cluster in the upper left of the image, while appearing close, is actually about 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the dust and stars of the nebulae. They’re very old, gravitationally bound collections of stars that orbit the galaxy, but not necessarily in the galactic plane. This one is NGC 6729.

(via APOD: 2012 September 9 - Wisps Surrounding the Horsehead Nebula)
Image Credit & Copyright: Star Shadows Remote Observatory
See the little horse-head? That’s the Horsehead Nebula. It’s not exactly a little nebula off by itself. It’s part of a larger molecular cloud complex in Orion.
This show was taken with a very long (7 hour) exposure of hydrogen-alpha in red and overlaid on a broadband (full color) image taken over a 3 hour interval to capture the background star field.

(via APOD: 2012 September 9 - Wisps Surrounding the Horsehead Nebula)

Image Credit & Copyright: Star Shadows Remote Observatory

See the little horse-head? That’s the Horsehead Nebula. It’s not exactly a little nebula off by itself. It’s part of a larger molecular cloud complex in Orion.

This show was taken with a very long (7 hour) exposure of hydrogen-alpha in red and overlaid on a broadband (full color) image taken over a 3 hour interval to capture the background star field.

(via APOD: 2012 September 3 - M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster)
Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler
The Pleiades (M45) open star cluster is frequently referred to as the “Seven Sisters”, but this shot clearly shows that the “seven” are only the brightest stars.
There are, in fact, over 3000 stars in the Pleiades cluster, some of which are, yes, brown dwarfs, but others are just hard to see with the naked eye, especially with the very bright stars around them.
You can also see the neat reflection nebulae around the biggest and brightest stars.

(via APOD: 2012 September 3 - M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster)

Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

The Pleiades (M45) open star cluster is frequently referred to as the “Seven Sisters”, but this shot clearly shows that the “seven” are only the brightest stars.

There are, in fact, over 3000 stars in the Pleiades cluster, some of which are, yes, brown dwarfs, but others are just hard to see with the naked eye, especially with the very bright stars around them.

You can also see the neat reflection nebulae around the biggest and brightest stars.

(via APOD: 2012 August 31 - Halo of the Cat’s Eye)
Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman
What? More Cat’s Eye? Yeah. You know why? Because that whole other picture…is the small dense bit in the middle of this one.
This is a 6-light-year-wide bubble of gas expelled from the system earlier in the end-life of the system. It is very faint, but has been boosted in this shot with a set of narrow-band filters to capture the ionized gas. Blue-green is twice ionized oxygen while hydrogen and nitrogen are in red. It’s overlaid on a background of broadband data to show the overall starfield.
While the inner, more visible planetary nebula phase of stellar evolution lasts about 10,000 years, astronomers have placed the age of the outer filaments at around 50-90,000 years.

(via APOD: 2012 August 31 - Halo of the Cat’s Eye)

Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman

What? More Cat’s Eye? Yeah. You know why? Because that whole other picture…is the small dense bit in the middle of this one.

This is a 6-light-year-wide bubble of gas expelled from the system earlier in the end-life of the system. It is very faint, but has been boosted in this shot with a set of narrow-band filters to capture the ionized gas. Blue-green is twice ionized oxygen while hydrogen and nitrogen are in red. It’s overlaid on a background of broadband data to show the overall starfield.

While the inner, more visible planetary nebula phase of stellar evolution lasts about 10,000 years, astronomers have placed the age of the outer filaments at around 50-90,000 years.

(via APOD: 2012 August 28 - Colorful Clouds Near Rho Ophiuchi)
Image Credit & Copyright: Tom O’Donoghue
Oooh! A lesson in the forms and varieties of nebulae all in one picture. OK, so there are three main kinds of nebulae:
Reflection
Emission
Dark
They’re produced by different processes too, so here’s what’s going on above:
Rho Ophiuchi, the bright blue star in the center of the top blue nebula is emitting regular light that is being scattered off the dust in the nebular clouds. Dust particles tend to scatter blue light more than any other wavelength of light, so the reflected light from the nebula is blue. Hence, reflection nebulae look blue.
To the lower-right, you can see Sigma Scorpii, a bright blue star in the middle of a red nebula. When the ultraviolet radiation from a star hit gas clouds, made mostly from hydrogen, they ionize the gas, stripping the electrons off the atoms. Atoms don’t stay that way forever, though, and they have a tendency to pull an electron back at some point, de-ionizing themselves. When that happens, it releases energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, usually as red light. We see the light being emitted from the gas as it de-ionizes.
Finally, in all those spots, mostly in the middle of the picture, where you might be worried that the photographer’s camera has some sensing issues, where we’re not seeing any background starlight, or really anything at all, those are areas where there’s too much dust, in the way, making a dark spot in the sky.
Oh, a couple other things:
Big, bright, red supergiant Antares in the lower middle is so red that even it’s reflected light is yellow-red.
M4 is the globular cluster just to right of Antares, an ancient relic of the universe, as are all the globular clusters we’ve ever seen. They orbit the Milky Way and are generally around 12-13 billion years old.
Boy do I love this astronomy stuff.

(via APOD: 2012 August 28 - Colorful Clouds Near Rho Ophiuchi)

Image Credit & Copyright: Tom O’Donoghue

Oooh! A lesson in the forms and varieties of nebulae all in one picture. OK, so there are three main kinds of nebulae:

  • Reflection
  • Emission
  • Dark

They’re produced by different processes too, so here’s what’s going on above:

Rho Ophiuchi, the bright blue star in the center of the top blue nebula is emitting regular light that is being scattered off the dust in the nebular clouds. Dust particles tend to scatter blue light more than any other wavelength of light, so the reflected light from the nebula is blue. Hence, reflection nebulae look blue.

To the lower-right, you can see Sigma Scorpii, a bright blue star in the middle of a red nebula. When the ultraviolet radiation from a star hit gas clouds, made mostly from hydrogen, they ionize the gas, stripping the electrons off the atoms. Atoms don’t stay that way forever, though, and they have a tendency to pull an electron back at some point, de-ionizing themselves. When that happens, it releases energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, usually as red light. We see the light being emitted from the gas as it de-ionizes.

Finally, in all those spots, mostly in the middle of the picture, where you might be worried that the photographer’s camera has some sensing issues, where we’re not seeing any background starlight, or really anything at all, those are areas where there’s too much dust, in the way, making a dark spot in the sky.

Oh, a couple other things:

  1. Big, bright, red supergiant Antares in the lower middle is so red that even it’s reflected light is yellow-red.
  2. M4 is the globular cluster just to right of Antares, an ancient relic of the universe, as are all the globular clusters we’ve ever seen. They orbit the Milky Way and are generally around 12-13 billion years old.

Boy do I love this astronomy stuff.

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)
At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.
All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.
As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)

At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.

All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.

As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)

Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh