3D Visualizations of Current Astrophysical Research for Public Explorations & for the Classroom

Gadgets & Gizmos Session at 205th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society

January 10-13, 2005

San Diego, CA

R. Landsberg, M. SubbaRao, D. Surendran

Abstract: Interactive 3-D visualizations are a compelling tool to connect museum visitors and undergraduate students with evolving scientific research (e.g., the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe being mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey). Immersive electronic media allows people to experience scientific discoveries as they unfold and to visit otherwise inaccessible worlds such as a quark's view of a particle accelerator or telescopes in Antarctica. Electronic exhibits are flexible and adaptable on timescales of days compared to years for physical displays, which means they are well positioned to exploit real and theoretical data streams (e.g., Mars Rovers images). Until recently, interactive immersive technology was prohibitively expensive and complex. However, it is now possible to create robust, commodity hardware based, visualization systems (e.g., the stereoscopic projection system know as the Geowall (www.geowall.org). This presentation will explore the 3D visualizations of real astrophysical data (SDSS, WMAP, etc), virtual visits to observatories, and the topology of the surface of Mars with a portable geowall system. Many of the visualizations that will be presented can be previewed in 2D at the Cosmus web site (astro.uchicago.edu/cosmus).