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Spherical Panoramas for Astrophysical Data Visualization

Friday, February 10, 2017 18:07
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This is the title of a paper by Brian Kent (NRAO), which has been accepted for publication in the PASP Special Focus Issue: Techniques and Methods for Astrophysical Data Visualization. You can download the paper from arXiv at .(I understand that the special issue will be published in the Spring). This is a timely publication, given the growing number of wide-area image products released in astronomy.

Brian shows to use the the  three-dimensional software package Blender and the Google Spatial Media module are used in tandem to immerse users in data exploration. The spherical panoramas that can be output from these open-source technologies include static panoramas, single-pass fly-throughs and orbit flyovers.  Briefly, Blender is a 3D graphics suite whose output can be processed by Google Spatial Media to create 360 degree video, and that output can be exported to youTube (with the appropriate metadata added to the header).

All-sky astronomy maps are well suited to this spherical panorama approach. The paper gives an itemize workflow for creating such panoramas. It involves combing images in equirectangular, cylindrical equal are or Hammer-Aitoff projections. Tools such as Montage can perform the projections calculations.

Brian maintains a web page called “An Introduction to 3D Graphics and Visualization for the Sciences.” It includes some panoramic video demos, and I embed a couple below; use your mouse to pan across the images.

Finally, if you really want to learn this technology, consider reading Brian’s book “3D Scientific Visualization with Blender.


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