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Astrophotographer's animated GIF displays fantastic, artistic 3D vision of a nebula

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MESTAVAINIO IC 1396 Nebula
MESTAVAINIO IC 1396 Nebula

The truly massive clouds of gas and dust that we call Nebulae are often the subjects of some spectacular photography, but these pictures leave the task of visualizing the 3D-space a nebula takes up to our imagination. That challenge inspired Finnish astrophotographer J-P Mestävainio to create artistically-interpreted 3D animations of nebula he's photographed. His method involves adding interpretations and educated guesses based on the formation of the nebula and a rule-of-thumb that brighter stars are closer than darker ones to known data about the nebula, like distance and the location of certain stars around it to create a 3D model of the nebula. It may not have much scientific merit, but it's a fantastic way to see these structures in a new light. The nebula pictured here is IC 1396, which is 3,000 light years from Earth, though you can see many more animated 3D nebulae at Mestävainio's website.

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