J-P Metsävainio has created a jaw-dropping three-dimensional GIF of a nebula near the constellation Cepheus, some 2,000 light years away. The nebula, IC 1396, is far enough away from Earth that J-P had to use software to create a false perspective, even though it’s several hundred light years across.
“My work flow is based on scientific data from the object, distance and the sources of ionization are usually known,” Metsävainio explains on his blog, Astro Anarchy. He uses this information to surmise a likely form, then the “rest of the missing information is … replaced with an artistic vision.”
Metsävainio took the original image of the nebula in November of 2011 in Finland near the Arctic Circle. Then he converted the two-dimensional picture into three dimensions using surface modeling software. The software, he writes, splits the image into various layers, then projects it onto a 3D form. Because his observatory is located so far north, Metsävainio only has sufficient darkness to take pictures for six months of every year. As a result, he notes on Facebook, he only produces between 10 and 12 photos per year.
The results are spectacular. Via Nebula IC 1396, Animated In 3D