A Rose By Any Other Name…


Would look twice as sweet! Are you seeing double? No. This isn’t an eye test – rather an incredible, dimensional look at NGC 2244 – a star cluster embroiled in a reflection nebula spanning 55 light-years and most commonly called “The Rosette.” Step inside and prepare to be blown away…

Do you remember the “magic eye” puzzles that were all the rage a few years ago? They were a series of meaningless spots until you relaxed your eyes, positioned the picture just the right distance and all at once… you could see dimension. This is exactly what will happen if you open this incredible full-sized image of the Rosette done by Jukka Metsavainio. It may take you a few moments to get your eyes in just the right position away from the monitor screen, but when you do? Wow… It’s like using a binocular viewer, but in living color!

Now, let’s learn about what we’re seeing…

Located about 2500 light-years away, the galactic star cluster NGC 2244 heats the gas within the nebula to nearly 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing it to emit light in a process similar to that of a fluorescent tube. A huge percentage of this light is hydrogen-alpha, which is scattered back from its dusty shell and becomes polarized. The brightest and hottest of the stars that you see here are O type main sequence beauties – over a hundred times the size and a thousand times brighter than stars like our Sun. Their solar winds and radiation scream out, stripping the dust discs away from the younger stars and igniting the area in glowing florescence.

But deep inside, astronomers have discovered a young star coughing out a complex jet of material complete with knots and bow shocks. Thanks to the “O” boys clearing away the dusty debris, we’re able to hypothesize it may be a low-mass star, stripped of its accretion disc and left to evolve on its own. According to Zoltan Balog’s 2008 study; “Our observations support theoretical predictions in which photoevaporation removes the gas relatively quickly from the outer region of a protoplanetary disk, but leaves an inner, more robust, and possibly gas-rich disk component of radius 5-10 AU. With the gas gone, larger solid bodies in the outer disk can experience a high rate of collisions and produce elevated amounts of dust. This dust is being stripped from the system by the photon pressure of the O star to form a gas-free dusty tail.”

But that’s not all that’s going on inside this double rose… According to Junfeng Wang’s study with the Chandra X-Ray telescope; “By comparing the NGC 2244 and Orion Nebula Cluster, we estimate a total population of 2000 stars in NGC 2244. The spatial distribution of X-ray stars is strongly concentrated around the central O5 star, HD 46150. The other early O star, HD 46223, has few companions. The cluster’s stellar radial density profile shows two distinctive structures surrounded by an isothermal sphere extending out with core radius. This double structure, combined with the absence of mass segregation, indicates that this 2 million old cluster is not in dynamical equilibrium. The Rosette OB X-ray spectra are soft and consistent with the standard model of small-scale shocks in the inner wind of a single massive star.”

So what’s causing it? Possibly mass stellar segregation. While that seems more like a topic for a local newspaper than for an astronomy article, it’s true! According to the research done by L. Chen in 1977 who studied membership probabilities and velocity dispersions of stars in NGC 2244 it shows; “Clear evidence of mass segregation, but doesn’t exhibit any significant velocity-mass (or, equivalently, velocity-luminosity) dependence. This provides strong support for the suggestion that the observed mass segregation is at least partially due to the way in which star formation has proceeded in these complex star-forming regions (“primordial” mass segregation).” The effects of this internal two-body relaxation, may very well have simply come from NGC 2244 splitting apart a little sooner than expected! And what caused that? A strong probability of magnetic cluster stars…

While you won’t see any red hues in visible light, aim a large pair of binoculars about a fingerwidth east of Epsilon Monoceros (RA 6:32.4 Dec +04:52) from a dark sky site and see if you can make out a vague nebulosity associated with this open cluster. Even if you can’t, it is still a wonderful cluster of stars crowned by the yellow jewel of 12 Monocerotis. With good seeing, small telescopes can easily spot the broken, patchy wreath of nebulosity around a well-resolved symmetrical concentration of stars. Larger scopes, and those with filters, will make out separate areas of the nebula which also bear their own distinctive NGC labels. No matter how you view it, the entire region is one of the best for winter skies!

My thanks once again to Jukka Metsavainio of Northern Galactic for sharing this incredible image with us.

35 Replies to “A Rose By Any Other Name…”

  1. Where do the two views come from to make the 3d pair? Does earth’s orbit cause enough parallax for this to work?

  2. off topic – but – just seen a star or planet really bright north north east from the moon, about a finger distance away… viewed from london uk.

    Is this venus, mars or just a star?

  3. Oilismastery, the photos are not identical. There is a distance between them, that’s way we can see the dimension.
    For example, if you want to take a photo like this, you need two photos.
    The effect is esalted when there are more plans in the view.
    Suppose that you are in a park. You see the a path with a lamp-column, behind the lamp a tree, behind the tree two more trees and buildings at the end of the view.
    To take a 3d photo of the place, you make a step to the left side, take the first photo, then you return to your initial position ( staying in the same line ) and you take the right photo. Then you put the two photos together and you see the dimension as here.
    This is the most auscient rule to see in 3d πŸ™‚

  4. bah i meant NNW – sorry again for offtopicness

    Now for something on topic..

    my eyes hurt from those pictures, very cool though

    try not to just look through the pictures like the old style ones, but cross your eyes and try to focus both images in the middle..

    now to get some pain killers

  5. OilIsMastery says: “All I see is lots of electricity and magnetism”

    hmmm… how do you see electricity or magnetism, in the real world, or in a picture? If those things are present, surely, they are invisible.
    I see very pretty colours and shapes, a true Natural Thing Of Beauty… from a safe distance, anyway…

  6. Sofia,

    The photos look identical to me. No, I am not blind.


    The last time checked, all light is visible electricity because optical light and color are part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  7. Rog,

    Anyone who can imagine non-Euclidean geometry, curved space, black holes, and gravity has either an overactive imagination or a totally deficient one. I’m not sure which.

  8. Oils, it’s an optical trick (although trick might be a little too dismissive of a term).

    Let your eyes out of focus, looking straight ahead. Place your nose very close to the screen in the middle of the image, then slowly move your head backwards, keeping your nose even with the middle of the image. Be very careful to keep your eyes out of focus and straight ahead.

    At a certain point, the image will suddenly come into focus in a 3-d sort of way.

    It playing on a trick of perspective. If you change the distance at which your eyes are focused from, say, six feet to one foot, you will feel your cornea being deformed to change it’s focal length. However, if you change the distance at which your eyes are focused from 600 feet to 100 ft, you won’t feel any deformation. At a certain distance, your eyes focus at ‘infinity”. By keeping your eyes at infinity and looking at two barely different images at the same time, you lose your natural sense of perspective, which tells you that you’re looking at a flat image.

    At least, I think that’s how it works…

  9. Oilismastery, try the bright star on the top of the image. In relation with the nebula behind that helps. If you look carefully, you’ll see that in the right image, it is in the center of the nebula, in the left is positioned slghtly to the right of the nebula.
    There isn’ t any tryck. There are simply two photos with a small distance between them..

  10. I tried decoupling my eyes but I must be two old or don’t have enough reference points to converge. Crossing my eyes seem to work but I don’t know if that was the desired 3d effect.

    I guess I gonna have to look for that CD the band Tool produced some time ago that came with stereoscopic glasses and give that a try.

  11. I had trouble seeing the 3D effect too. (I always had trouble with those “magic Eye” puzzles too.) So I made a simple viewer to help.

    I took two sheets of 8.5″x11″ paper, rolled them lengthwise into two cylinders and taped them together at the ends (sort of like a pair of binoculars). Hold them up to the screen so each tube covers one of the images and look through the other end. The 3D effect didn’t pop up immediately like I hoped it would but after a little while the two images merged into a spectacular 3D image. It worked better for me with the smaller set of images.

    Ryan, I have the same question. Surely, the Earth’s orbit wouldn’t give enough parallax to get this kind of effect.

  12. OilIsMastery Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    “The last time checked, all light is visible electricity because optical light and color are part of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

    >>> Since when did you believe in the findings of physics, the scientific process or empirical evidence, Oils? After all, they’re all just constructs of a deeply flawed process, including the laughable notions of ‘electricity’, ‘magnetism’, ‘particles’, ‘atoms’ and whatnot.

    OilIsMastery Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 12:26 pm


    Anyone who can imagine non-Euclidean geometry, curved space, black holes, and gravity has either an overactive imagination or a totally deficient one. I’m not sure which.”

    >>>Yeah is all ‘Jewish Physics’ as Hitler liked to call it, isn’t it? We missed the boat when a few visionaries of Nazi Germany like Phillip Lenard tried to put us on the path of truth with Deutsche Physik.

    Anyhow – to those having trouble seeing it – it is critical to have your eyes level with the images when going for it, otherwise they will never merge properly. If you can’t get it, try slightly rotating your head to the left or right and going for it again…

    I must say – stunning. They’ve been doing this for years with molecules etc in biochemistry and whatnot but I’ve never seen it in an astronomical image – and Ive been keen for it! It didn’t disappoint.

  13. Go see Jukka Metsavainio’s website, there are lots more, and he explains:

    “This is not an accurate presentation of the real 3D dimensions, but gives an idea about real nature of three dimensional object floating in three dimensional space.”

    There’s a bit more info in ‘Ciel & Espace’ French language astro mag (that’s where I first saw them).
    One image is the original, the other is photoshopped so as to show the same kind of shift you might see if your eyes were a few light-years apart!

    Must take some time to do…

  14. Beautiful image.
    I always had trouble with 3d magic eye images too.

    I have a solution that works for me.

    Instead of ‘relaxing’ your eyes, cross them!
    As you cross your eyes you will see the image of each eye start to overlap. Using this overlap as visual feedback, keep overlapping until you have overlapped the two images 50%. (Reduce the amount of cross-over needed by moving back from the screen.)

    You will now see exactly 3 images instead of just 2. The middle one is the 3d version!

    This is helpful for me anyway – because I already know how to cross my eyes and the visual feedback of the overlap is much easier for me to work with to get the right effect.

  15. good suggestion, pete!

    i noticed it happened a lot faster with the small image and just crossing my eyes. let your mind ignore the duplicate flat images and only pay attention to the one that’s stereo.

    i remember seeing a comment in here somewhere about someone looking up a CD by the group, “Tool”… dude? this one’s for you…

    “Trust me… Trust me.. Trust Me…”


  16. By crossing your eyes you maintain the 3d effect and sense of depth but you invert its original relief; front becomes back and vice-versa. This image is stunningly impressive and some stars even seem to pop way out of the monitor. Can anyone let Hugh Hefner know about this!

  17. I’m a retired radiologist, trained in the early 70’s when we didn’t have CAT scans and MRI’s to help with the 3D placement of structures we could visualize on 2 planes.
    We used this same technique to help us place a structure we saw on two planes, within a 3-D construct that was formed by the merging of two similar images taken several degrees apart. After a while, one would get pretty good at merging two, single-plane xray images into one 3D image. When I saw the images you presented, I didn’t even have to read the caption. I immediately knew what it was about and what I had to do. The old skill came back quickly. What a wonderful image . . . and pleasant reflection on the past. Thanks for the memories!

  18. WOW…wait a sec…let me get my skin back on, I jumped out of it. I think you have found a new use for astronomical pics. Wow, the slight tendrils of gas coming out of the nebula, in the 3D you can look down the tube and see the star cluster inside, and WOW the smattering of stars all around it. A couple of them even looked like they might have accretion disks. All the old skills from the “Magic Eye” books came back, although I did have to get back several feet from the monitor with the large versions. Turning out the room lights helped. Just WOW. See if you can get some other Hubble pics and do this. I would buy the book in a heartbeat.

  19. Nice! I like the images where the stars appear behind the object, that’s probably more realistic to what is really happening.

  20. Very nice work, Jukka Metsavainio. Thank you, and thanks to Tammy also. πŸ™‚

    I’ve always crossed my eyes to view the effect.

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