3D Astronomy

October 4, 2012 4 Comments by 3DBlog

Humans first looked up to the sky and started observing it as early as they developed the ability of abstract thinking. It’s been many centuries, even millenniums, since the first man wondered what the stars, the sun and the moon were made of, and what their nature was.  In prehistoric times, when people were only beginning to study the world around them, and most of the phenomena were beyond their understanding, they used to make up myths and legends to somehow explain everything they saw. As centuries of observation went by, people more and more tended towards the scientific approach. The picture revealed as they kept on collecting data and inventing intricate tools.

Now that the space exploration is underway, man has travelled to the Moon, and spacecrafts have been launched, and by now, have reached the outer Solar System, the number of questions being put is still larger than the answers being found. The more we learn, the more clear it becomes how little we know about the world we live in.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only manmade objects that have travelled as far as Neptune, but people themselves haven’t yet visited any other planet. Human life is trifling in comparison with the size and time scales of the Universe. No way has been invented so far to take us through time or across such enormous distances. But the data we get from the super-power telescopes and the knowledge we’ve accumulated during the centuries gives us some understanding of the astronomic laws. And here 3D technologies come to the aid. We take an extremely powerful computer, or a number of computers, input the data and let the machines do the calculations and render the visualization of processes taking place in the cosmos: a birth of a star, galaxies collision, or planet forming. Computer modeling lets us see the processes that we cannot witness in real time, because they take millions or even billions of years.

The result of the computer modeling is not just a spectacular sight, but it also helps the scientists fill in the gaps in their theories and conceptions.

One of the greatest astronomic achievements is closely associated with the 3D technologies. In early August, this year, Sloan Digital Sky Survey III released the largest-ever three-dimensional map of the universe. Officially this map is titled “Data Release 9” and includes about a million of galaxies, each consisting of some 100 million stars. This is only a third part of the data that will be included into the final release. The map is called to help scientists retrace the history of the universe and come closer to the understanding of such mysterious phenomena as “dark matter” and “dark energy”.

Unfortunately, this map cannot be viewed by ordinary people, because it requires some specific browsing software. But you can take a breathtaking journey through the universe with the help of this pre-rendered video:

Another grand project of this kind is The Bolshoi Simulation (“bolshoi” is the Russian word for “great”). Latest technologies, as well as the world’s fastest supercomputers are being used not to just map the objects, but to put them in motion and create a simulation of the evolution of the large-scale universe structures. It’s hard to comprehend and imagine such figures and distances, but the investigators have calculated (with the help of the machines, of course) the evolution process for a part of the universe that is billion light years across!

But despite these two huge projects, it is still believed that the astronomers don’t take the complete advantage of the 3D technologies which are totally underused in this field of science. Frederic Vogt and Alexander Wagner, the two experts from the Australian National University, insist that they should take benefit from 3-dimentional images rather than stick to the traditional 2D visualization. It is crucial to get a realistic all-round view of the celestial objects, because any trifle can turn out to be an answer to a global question. So, it’s quite possible, that soon we will be mostly viewing stereo pairs instead of the common flat shots of cosmos.

Various amazing tools have been developed for those who want to explore the Universe without getting an academic degree or becoming an astronaut. There is a number of free 3D space simulators that you will definitely find fantastic: Celestia, Earthsim, SpaceEngine to name only a few of them. They are all based on the actual astronomic data and allow you to ‘fly’ to any object in the Solar System. In some cases you can even travel further to other stars. You can watch planets moving in real time, or you can even peep into the past or the future, to see what their position at a certain point was. Watch the sunrise on Mars, or four moons in the Jovian sky, or the rings how they are seen from Saturn? Of course! You can do this with the help of these simulators.

One of the most appealing things about astronomy is that astronomers are eager to share the knowledge with the general public. Besides, anyone is welcome to observe the sky and make a contribution to the science, while computer technologies will be there to share your discoveries immediately. “The most fun part of making this data available online is knowing that anyone on the Internet can now access the very same data and search tools that professional astronomers use to make exciting discoveries about our universe,” says Ani Thakar of Johns Hopkins University.

The universe is incredibly vast. What is more, there are, most likely, other universes like ours. So there are countless discoveries to be made, and there are lots of pages in the book of discoverers, to write your name into. 3D technologies are always at your service.


  1. katja renner says:
    Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 5:36am

    It is all so much beyond our understanding. I’m afraid no 3D modeling can help us comprehend the universe


    • 3DBlog says:
      Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:48am

      Maybe… but still it can let us know much more about the Universe.


  2. Nigar Ali says:
    Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 6:44am

    Thank you for introducing these fantastic 3D space simulators. That’s what I am gonna do now – download and try it out


  3. Jbag says:
    Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 2:23pm

    Amazing! These guys are the intellect!


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