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Recent Podcast
Tour: NASA's Chandra Opens Treasure Trove of Cosmic Delights
Tour: NASA's Chandra Opens Treasure Trove of Cosmic Delights
Humanity has "eyes" that can detect all different types of light through telescopes around the globe and a fleet of observatories in space. From radio waves to gamma rays, this multiwavelength approach to astronomy is crucial to getting a complete understanding of objects in space. (2020-09-02)


A Tour of 3D Visualizations

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In the year 1054 AD, Chinese sky watchers witnessed the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the heavens, which they recorded as six times brighter than Venus, making it the brightest observed stellar event in recorded history. This "guest star," as they described it, was so bright that people saw it in the sky during the day for almost a month. Native Americans also recorded its mysterious appearance in petroglyphs.

Observing the nebula with the largest telescope of the time, Lord Rosse in 1844 named the object the "Crab" because of its tentacle-like structure. But it wasn't until the 1900s that astronomers realized the nebula was the surviving relic of the 1054 supernova, the explosion of a massive star.

Now, astronomers and visualization specialists have combined the visible, infrared, and X-ray vision of NASA's Great Observatories to 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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