Space Out On These 3-D Nebulae GIFs

By Nick Venable | Updated

There are certain times in life when I come across something manmade and artificial that I find more beautiful than anything that unaided nature could present to me. Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a perfect bite of food, and then sometimes it’s a stunning set of 3-D GIFs of nebulae. Well, at least one time. This time.

Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio has combined complex science and complex art to create the most gorgeous GIFs I can imagine, converting astrophotographs into 3-D volumetric models, and then building the animations around those models. By first studying the nebulae and stars themselves, Metsavainio calculates the distances between them all, falling back on the common sense of “brighter is closer” when information can’t be found. Common characteristics, such as stellar winds blowing gas from the cluster and leaving the empty space behind, help in his estimations. But that’s all like finding out where your favorite painter buys his anatomy design books. The fun is in these beautiful moving images coming to time-looped life.

Looking at these colorful wonders, it’s clear that I’d never cut it as an astronaut. I don’t think I’d make it 10 minutes riding around in space before I’d lose myself staring at all the sights and wreck the shuttle into the only tree floating through space. Shuttles are like cars, right? I haven’t been thinking clearly since I started staring at these GIFs two days ago.

For more images, plus short 3-D video animations, check out Metsavainio’s website.