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Recent Podcast
A Tour of Cases of Black Hole Mistaken Identity
A Tour of Cases of Black Hole Mistaken Identity
Astronomers have discovered one type of growing supermassive black hole masquerading as another. (2020-07-15)


A Tour of 3D Visualizations

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Since ancient times, the study of astronomy has largely been limited to the flat, two-dimensional projection of what appears on the sky. However, just like a botanist puts a plant under a microscope or a paleontologist digs for fossils, astronomers want more "hands on" ways to analyze objects in space.

As one decade ends and another begins, astronomers are exploring ways to combine ingenious techniques with rich datasets from powerful modern telescopes to move from studying objects in two dimensions to studying them in three.

These computer simulations represent an exciting step in that direction. Each of these is a three-dimensional (3D) visualization of an astronomical object based on data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories. While unable to fly to these distant objects and travel around them, astronomers have used the data they can gather from Chandra and other X-ray observatories to learn about the geometry, velocity, and other physical properties of each of these cosmic sources.

Each of these computer simulations is available to the public on free software that is supported by most platforms and browsers and allows users to interact with and navigate 3D models as they choose. The objects include jets blasting away from infant stars, a star that changes its brightness wildly over time, and some of the most well-known supernova explosions such as Cassiopeia A and SN 1987A. We invite you to explore these cosmic objects like you never have before.

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