Oooohhhh! Pretty!

The Cat’s Eye Nebula In 3-D

Cat's Eye Nebula

Cat's Eye Nebula

Cross your eyes slightly to merge the two images.

3-D is all the rage in theatres and on TV. But in space? The universe seems awfully flat sometimes.

Well, it’s not easy, but something can be done about that. Jukka Metsavainio can – and has – created images of fantastic beauty by painstakingly manipulating astronomical images to create a stereo pair that can be used to visualize the object in a kind of fake 3-D (usually by crossing your eyes slightly to merge the images into one). You’d have to be a giant light-years in size to actually achieve the parallax effect that he produces, but the effect is stunning. Tammy Plotner at Universe Today describes the process.

When Jukka produces an image, it’s more than just a clever Photoshop “trick”. Hours of study must go into each image, because the light is acting differently in each part of the nebula. To make these images work correctly, Jukka must understand which stars are causing the ionization, which stars are nearer and further from our point of perspective and so on. Each type of image is totally unique and what makes dimension work for a reflection nebula won’t work for an emission nebula. Says Jukka; “To be able to make those stereo pairs, one have to learn lots of things about the targets, and beside that, study the actual image more deeply than usual. Star distances must be measured by the size and the color. For example, stars with yellowish hue must be in or behind the nebulosity, white/blue ones are front of it.”

Did I say “fake”? If that connotes “cheap” or “second rate”, that’s the wrong word. It’s more like he’s fooling our senses to see reality better.

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