The Most Beautiful Things
July 9, 2015 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Thick clouds of dust and gas prevent our eyes from seeing much of our Milky Way galaxy. But infrared light travels through that dust easily. Using infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope has been taking high-resolution images of our galactic center since 2003. Combining over 400,000 of those images in multiple wavelengths of light reveals a new view of our galaxy. Floating along the Milky Way (in 4k60p if your computer can handle it).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken (23 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Stars glow like bright wounds on indeterminate forms, nested in the essence of space.
posted by Oyéah at 8:11 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

galaxy big.
posted by Makwa at 8:14 PM on July 9, 2015

What's with the parallax effect?
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

odinsdream: I'm guessing the vast distances allow for some nifty parallax?
posted by slater at 8:27 PM on July 9, 2015

the parallax must be simulated - it's precisely vast distances that make it impossible to see any apparent motion.

maybe he has taken what astrometric data we have and exaggerated it, but boy that would be a lot of work.
posted by joeblough at 8:30 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by OHenryPacey at 9:50 PM on July 9, 2015

a psychedelic Christmas tree, infinitely ...
posted by philip-random at 10:08 PM on July 9, 2015

Well, that's put the problem of my neighbour's son parking over my driveway into perspective.
posted by mattoxic at 10:11 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

His notes on the video deny that he used CGI; I can only suppose that he overlaid pictures of nebulae with pictures of star fields at various magnifications, then moved the nebulae and star fields independently. That would give an effect of depth, but the implied depths would be all wrong, of course.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:14 PM on July 9, 2015

Tripping balls!!!!
This is the most fantastic thing I have seen in years!
posted by growabrain at 10:46 PM on July 9, 2015

the implied depths would be all wrong

This is what I was trying to figure out, because larger/brighter (and so apparently nearer) stars were moving much more against a field of green gas/smaller stars, which implies the camera moving at a speed that would have gotten Voyager home, in, like, 20 minutes.

I also wasn't clear on what the path of the camera was supposed to represent. It was a beautiful visual, though.
posted by fatbird at 11:07 PM on July 9, 2015

I wonder if different types of images (nebulae versus stars) can be imaged at different wavelengths, which might allow them to be layered in the video app and animated separately, so you might move the infrared image of a nebula against a background of visible light stars, for example, to create the impression of depth / motion.
posted by aught at 6:18 AM on July 10, 2015

Goddammit, we're never going anywhere. Stuck in the weeds on the on-ramp.
posted by aramaic at 6:56 AM on July 10, 2015

Dark Matter, and things we have yet to learn how to measure.

I grew up knowing that our Earth circled our sun, and we had a tidy group of neighbors. Mars may have had canals and Venus could possibly be an antediluvian swamp. Details change things. Somehow I learned that Andromeda was like us, but some mumble of zeros away. All the stars that filled my sky were from the Milky way. The universe was not yet mapped at all, and I figured it to be more or less spherical, populated by galaxies, their stars populated by planets. Then I heard about that sweet spot in a solar system, where water flowed, and life, as we know it, could prosper. All those stars, all those galaxies. The odds were that others (like me) might be out there somewhere, looking at their own skies and thinking, What if?... After all, there were billions times billions of opportunities. Different facts, same conclusion: They are out there somewhere, waiting to say hello. It's too bad about Mars and Venus, but still....

Now I find that all those galaxies (and their associated components) comprise only a teeny tiny itty-bitty part of what's out there, and what we have considered to be the main course on the menu--planets, stars, comets--probably are just bits of detritus that were spit out of the cosmic engine as it does whatever the hell it is that it does.

We are made of stardust, it is said, but what if stardust is what comes out of the tailpipe of the engine being ridden by the Cosmic Muffin? How can we look at this stuff without thinking that perhaps we were not the point after all?
posted by mule98J at 6:58 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh god the parallax makes me angry.

So pretty sure what's happening is this: Spitzer has a few different wavelength bands (7 if I remember correctly). The three shortest bands (on IRAC) tend to mostly show point sources (stars) and a bit of dust, but the dust isn't all-over the image in the way it is on the 8, 24, and 70 micron bands. So I'm guessing that the 3 or 4 micron images are set in the "foreground", with some transparency, and the dusty 8/24/70 images are the background images. I mean it's kind of impressive that such a method works visually, but it's super cheating, like if I just overlaid two unrelated patches of sky on top of each other.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:19 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


posted by Splunge at 8:21 AM on July 10, 2015

kiltedtaco, yeah it's got to be something like that. as I'm sure you know only a few stars show any sort of (visually significant) parallax error even when viewed even from opposite parts of earth's orbit. of course many stars show tiny, tiny amounts which is what the Hipparcos and Gaia satellites measure(d).
posted by joeblough at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2015

If I could believe the foreground stars are the ones that are closer to us than the background stars, I could forgive the fictionalized parallax as a cheat to give me some sense of depth and the idea that some of those stars are much closer than others.
posted by straight at 12:32 PM on July 10, 2015

> Oh god the parallax makes me angry.

Come now, parallax should never make you angry. Dizzy, maybe, but not angry.

So many people are looking at Spitzer images (Spitzer images!) and going "Woah" - 350,000+ views - and it's entertainment, not meant to be real science, you know?

Sigh. I wish they hadn't done it quite that strongly, too.

(On server error post-fix preview, yeah, those stars are bluer in color, which means they are not being seen through as much dust, so they're closer.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:46 PM on July 10, 2015

He goes into a bit of detail about the process and the fake 3D in these two comments.
It's not of course true 3D, but simulated 3D by assigning depth to various features through automated and manual processing based on size, colors, and positions.
I'm kinda okay with it, as it's mostly serving the purpose of giving people some small sense of how utterly huge and complex our galaxy is.
posted by lucidium at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2015

On the topic of the size of things (and while I'm linking to reddit threads), there was an interesting question and answer about how large things would be if the entire observable universe were the size of Earth. Some choice numbers:
  • The Milky Way is about 7m across
  • Andromeda is about 350m away
  • Alpha Centuri is about 0.5 mm away
  • For light to travel a single cm it takes about 70 years
posted by lucidium at 1:47 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

well, it's good to hear that he used pixinsight for this, because for astronomical processing... it's the shit.

also that scaling is really interesting. it is very hard to make sense of the size of the observable universe. that kind of brings it down to a comprehensible scale.
posted by joeblough at 5:23 PM on July 10, 2015

"Comprehensible" being a relative term. Kinda makes you want to slip the surly bonds of human existence altogether, dunnit?
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:10 PM on July 11, 2015

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