What A Nebula Really Looks Like

Sheer distance usually limits how vividly scientists can picture objects in space, but Michael Zhang spotlights an astrophotographer who found a way to bring the galaxy to life in a whole new way:

First, Metsavainio collects information about how far away an object is, and carefully studies the stars and structures in and around it. Then, he creates a volumetric model of his subject — usually a nebula, although he’s rendered at least one globular star cluster. Finally, he animates the 3-D rendering, providing viewers with a tantalizing taste of what it might be like to fly a starship through these enormous astronomical ornaments.