A Realistic Video of What You'd See Flying Through Deep Space

This is a 3D visualization of the Hubble Deep Field image, and it gives you a tantalizing glimpse of what it might be like to fly at extreme speeds through the vast regions between galaxies.


The HubbleSite has made several 3D visualizations of deep space images available on a special area of their site, and it's worth watching all of them — they are glorious. Plus, they offer a complete explanation of what you're seeing and how the visualization was created, sometimes from non-visual data. Here's what they have to say about the Deep Field image:

In 2004, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) provided a ground-breaking view of distant galaxies. In 2009, those data were augmented with new infrared observations to create the HUDF-IR. In 2012, the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF) combined those images along with a complete census of archival datasets to see yet farther into the universe. The HXDF contains roughly 5,500 galaxies stretching over 13 billion light-years of space, and represents astronomy's deepest view into the cosmos.

This scientific visualization depicts a flight through the HXDF galaxies. Using measured and estimated distances for approximately 3,000 galaxies, astronomers and visualizers constructed a three-dimensional model of the galaxy distribution. The camera traverses through the thirteen-billion-light-year dataset and ends in blackness, not because more distant galaxies do not exist, but because such galaxies have not yet been observed. For cinematic reasons, the exceedingly vast distances in the 3D model have been significantly compressed.

The visualization is credited to F. Summers, L. Frattare, T. Davis, Z. Levay, and G. Bacon (STScI); data was crunched by G. Illingworth, P. Oesch, and D. Magee (UCSC).

Here's another astonishingly beautiful flyby, this time of the Horsehead Nebula:

HubbleSite explains:

The Horsehead Nebula is a dark cloud of dense gas and dust located just below the belt of Orion on the sky. A visible light view shows a strong silhouette resembling the horse's head used for a knight in chess. Infrared light, however, reveals a more complex scene, as shown in Hubble's 2013 image. The warm parts of the clouds glow in infrared light, plus longer infrared wavelengths can penetrate deeper into the clouds. A dark and relatively featureless scene is revealed as a glowing gaseous landscape.

This video presents a scientific visualization of the Horsehead Nebula as seen in infrared light. To fill out the widescreen frame, the central Hubble image has been augmented by ground-based observations from the European Southern Observatory's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA). The three-dimensional interpretation has been sculpted to create a wispy and mountainous environment, with stars distributed in an approximate and statistical manner. The computer graphics model is intended to be scientifically reasonable, but not fully accurate. This imaginative traverse provides an inspiring spaceflight experience that brings the celestial scene to life.

Visualization credit goes to: G. Bacon, T. Davis, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (STScI)

Watch all of HubbleSite's amazing videos on their Featured Videos page.



Destination alpha Cygnus

I've read that the sky contains 12.7 million times more area than the Hubble Deep Field, and I've always been amazed at that. So using the metaphor that is commonly used, that's a lot of eight-foot soda straws.

And I'm inclined to ask: Even if we do develop FTL like an Albicuierre drive or something like that, would intergalactic travel be feasible? Would traveling to M31, millions of light years away, be as easy as going to Proxima Centauri, "just" a few light years away? Once we break the light speed barrier, can we go as fast as we want to other galaxies like in this video?