"It's an interesting problem," said Jonathan Gardner, the project's deputy senior project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "How do we communicate the great scientific promise of the James Webb Space Telescope when we've never seen what it can show us?"
So the project turned to Donna Cox, who directs the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Located at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, NCSA provides enormous computing resources to researchers trying to simulate natural processes at the largest and smallest scales, from the evolution of the entire universe to the movement of protein molecules through cell walls.
Cox and her AVL team developed custom tools that can transform a model's vast collection of ones and zeroes into an incredible journey of exploration. "We take the actual data scientists have computed for their research and translate them into state-of-the-art cinematic experiences," she said.
Armed with an ultra-high-resolution 3D display and custom software, the AVL team choreographs complex real-time flights through hundreds of gigabytes of data. The results of this work have been featured in planetariums, IMAX theaters and TV documentaries. "Theorists are the only scientists who have ventured where Webb plans to go, and they did it through complex computer models that use the best understanding of the underlying physics we have today," Cox said. "Our challenge is to make these data visually understandable -- and reveal their inherent beauty."
The new visualizations reflect the broad science themes astronomers will address with Webb. Among them: How did the earliest galaxies interact and evolve to create the present-day universe? How do stars and planets form?
"When we look at the largest scales, we see galaxies packed into clusters and clusters of galaxies packed into superclusters, but we know the universe didn't start out this way," Gardner said. Studies of the cosmic microwave background -- the remnants of light emitted when the universe was just 380,000 years old -- show that the clumpy cosmic structure we see developed much later on. Yet the farthest galaxies studied are already more than 500 million years old.
"Webb will show us what happened in between," Gardner added.
Cox and her AVL team visualized this epoch of cosmic construction from a simulation developed by Renyue Cen and Jeremiah Ostriker at Princeton University in New Jersey. It opens when the universe was 20 million years old and continues to the present-day, when the universe is 13.7 billion years old.
AVL team members Robert Patterson, Stuart Levy, Matthew Hall, Alex Betts and A. J. Christensen visualized how stars, gas, dark matter and colliding galaxies created clusters and superclusters of galaxies. Driven by the gravitational effect of dark matter, these structures connect into enormous crisscrossing filaments that extend over vast distances, forming what astronomers call the "cosmic web."
"We worked with nine scientists at five universities to visualize terabytes of computed data in order to take the viewer on a visual tour from the cosmic web, to smaller scales of colliding galaxies, to deep inside a turbulent nebula where stars and disks form solar systems like our own," Cox said. "These visuals represent current theories that scientists will soon re-examine through the eyes of Webb."
Closer to home, Webb will peer more deeply than ever before into the dense, cold, dusty clouds where stars and planets are born. Using data from models created by Aaron Boley at the University of Florida in Gainesville and Alexei Kritsuk and Michael Norman at the University of California, San Diego, the AVL team visualized the evolution of protoplanetary disks over tens of thousands of years.
Dense clumps develop far out in a disk's fringes, and if these clumps survive they may become gas giant planets or substellar objects called brown dwarfs. The precise outcome depends on the detailed makeup of the disk. "Dr. Boley was interested in what happened in the disk and did not include the central star," Cox said, "so to produce a realistic view we worked with him to add a young star."
This is astrophysics with a pinch of Hollywood sensibility, work at the crossroads of science and art. "The theoretical digital studies that form the basis of our work are so advanced that cinematic visualization is the most effective way to share them with the public," Cox said. "It's the art of visualizing science."
"What AVL has done for the Webb project is truly amazing and inspiring," Gardner noted. "It really whets our appetites for the science we'll be doing when the telescope begins work a few years from now."
Francis Reddy | EurekAlert!
Illinois team finds Wigner crystal -- not Mott insulator -- in 'magic-angle' graphene
25.09.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
Measuring Smallest Magnetic Fields in the Brain Using Diamond and Laser Technology
25.09.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF
The Fraunhofer FEP has been involved in developing processes and equipment for cleaning, sterilization, and surface modification for decades. The CleanHand Network for development of systems and technologies to clean surfaces, materials, and objects was established in May 2018 to bundle the expertise of many partnering organizations. As a partner in the CleanHand Network, Fraunhofer FEP will present the Network and current research topics of the Institute in the field of hygiene and cleaning at the parts2clean trade fair, October 23-25, 2018 in Stuttgart, at the booth of the Fraunhofer Cleaning Technology Alliance (Hall 5, Booth C31).
Test reports and studies on the cleanliness of European motorway rest areas, hotel beds, and outdoor pools increasingly appear in the press, especially during...
The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.
This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.
21.09.2018 | Event News
03.09.2018 | Event News
27.08.2018 | Event News
25.09.2018 | Health and Medicine
25.09.2018 | Health and Medicine
25.09.2018 | Information Technology