All of the images on this web site are really Three Dimensional (3D). Looking out from Earth through the telescope the CCD camera is looking through our atmosphere, through our solar system, and most often even through our galaxy. The stars within the Milky Way are in our line of sight and prevent a clear field of view when looking at distant galaxies. The problem of course is that when the digital images are displayed on two dimensional media like paper or a computer monitor, the images seem to loose the dimension of depth. Fortunately, there are software tools like Photoshop or other software that can help recreate the 3D appearance of the image. By adding a little motion to the 3D camera a more realistic 3D image can be seen even on two dimensional media.
The image below is a short 5 second 3D animation of M81. The original version of M81 was captured on 5/7/2009. Here is a link to the original image. Using Photoshop I was able to separate and create 4 visual layers within this one image. The layers are:
1. The Brightest Stars
2. Other background Stars
3. Stars that overlapped the galaxy
4. The M81 Galaxy without Stars
With Photoshop CS4 Extended I was then able to 'fly' the 3D camera through these layers and create the effect of motion into the M81 Galaxy. WARNING: The resulting image is larger than most images on this web site. If your Windows Media Player is too slow and if you have some time, please download the image to your computer (with Windows) by "Right-Clicking" the download link and then "Save Target As" to your computer to view the Quicktime .MOV image. With a broadband internet connection it should take less than 1 minute to download the 5 second 3D image.
December 3, 2009