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3-D views reveal ‘Orion’s Dragon’ in space

Orion's Dragon
A color-coded image that’s based on SOFIA infrared data shows “Orion’s Dragon” in the Orion Nebula, more than 1,300 light-years from Earth. (NASA / USRA / DLR Image)

Spectral readings from the Orion Nebula have charted the cosmic weather patterns for powerful stellar winds that have created a bubble of material that’s 12 light-years wide, as well as a structure that’s been nicknamed “Orion’s Dragon.”

The dragon shape stands out in a 3-D video produced using data from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, a Boeing 747 jet that’s been converted to carry a 106-inch telescope and other scientific instruments.

“When we first saw it, we were standing around my computer screen looking at it and say, ‘Hey, doesn’t that look like a dragon?’ And everybody said, ‘Yeah, that looks like a dragon,’ ” Joan Schmelz, the SOFIA project’s associate director for science and public outreach at the Universities Space Research Association, said today at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in Seattle.

There’s even a stereoscopic video clip that pops out when seen with red-blue 3-D glasses. (You can download the MPG file via the SOFIA website.)

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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