A grain of sand on the beach of knowledge

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Sand from a beach in Ensenada, Mexico: a mixture of many shapes and colors, some from rocks and many from a large variety of animal shells. Try to figure out from which animals the individual grains came from (Image credit: W. Steffen).

From afar the sand of a beach looks like a uniform substance, maybe made of very similar grains of some color. But close inspection will reveal that it is made up of an incredible variety of grain types. Many are from rocks, but as many or more are pieces of shells and bones or other inorganic parts from animals. Identifying and classifying the grains will tell us a lot about the ocean that might appear mysterious and threatening. To obtain proper qualitative and quantitative information we might want to reconstruct the structure of the full animal from as many of the grains as possible. Similarly, understanding the grains that make up our galaxy and universe, i.e. the stars, their nebulae or whole nearby galaxies, will tell part of the story of the evolving Milky Way galaxy and the universe as a whole.

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3D – What does it mean anyway?


Image credit: W. Steffen

A few months ago I gave a public talk about our work on 3D reconstructions of astrophysical objects. Before diving right into the subject, I thought I should check with the audience whether we were going to understand each other when speaking of “3D”. When asking about what people in the audience understood when they saw or heard “3D”, I was in for a surprise. Continue reading

3D Astrophysics


Image credit: W. Steffen

A blog about 3D in astronomy and astrophysics? Who cares?
… Anyone?….

Well, we do, because….that is what we do. Our work is to figure out what the 3D structure of stuff in the universe is. We have been developing a software, called “Shape”, designed to help reconstruct the 3D-structure of astronomical nebulae. Since we started to build the interactive version of Shape in 2006 it has grown into a full-fledged virtual astrophysical laboratory and can be used for more than figure out the 3D structure of nebulae, although that is still its main application.

That is where our interest in all things 3D comes from, but there is so much research being done that deals with the depth and structure of everything in space, that we would like to discuss them as they come up. Continue reading