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Visualization of the Orion Nebula

NASA, in partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Caltech/Infrared Processing center, has released a breathtaking 3-D visualization of the Orion Nebula. Using a combination of infrared data collected by the Spitzer Space Telescope and imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope, the video, which uses Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E Major as a backing track, is intended to provide the viewer with a new understanding of nebulae by creating a model of what previously could only be viewed as a two-dimensional image.

Videos like NASA’s serve another, in some ways more important, purpose. By merging science and art there is potential to inspire a visceral, emotional response; a sense of awe that encourages a quest for understanding.

At a time when the scientific community seems to be fighting a losing battle to anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance, entertaining, informative content is becoming ever more important. Science should not be approached as a great “other” or an abstract thought that is at once too vast, too daunting and too concrete. By translating otherwise intimidating scientific data into something that can be understood by the layperson this flight through the Orion Nebula is an example of how science and art can be merged to inspire and, hopefully, stave off this tide.

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