The other day I was researching literature for a new paper and came across an unexpected treasure on the web that I would like to share here.
David Nadeau is a name that I remember very well as the lead author of the incredible animation of the Orion Nebula that he and a team of astronomers and computer scientists created in 1999 for the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York (Nadeau et al., 2001). It was so inspirational, I watched it over and over again.
Only now I stumbled upon a description of a second animation that Nadeau and his team did for the same planetarium a few years later. It is an animation that shows the formation of stars in a nebula and the evolution of the nebula and the circumstellar environment as stars are formed and illuminate the gas.
What I would like to call your attention to is David Nadeau´s description of the project, and in particular the challenges and problems that they faced to achieve their goal. They combine several high resolution simulations and were dealing with huge amounts of data, that were impossible to handle at first. So they came up with a few tricks to transfer and handle the data. These tricks are of interest to anyone who might embark on a similar project. Also, it discusses how one has to find trade-offs between the limitations of simulated data and their visualization for the general public that follows a particular script. Nature, even in a computer, doesn´t always do what we would like it to do.
So, I would like to encourage you to read Nadeau´s Case Study: Large data volume visualization of an evolving emission nebula.
In their project Nadeau et al. where not able to simulate the dynamical expansion of the nebula due to the photo-ionization from the recently formed star. Will Henney and colleagues did precisely such a simulation in 2011 for a research project (Arthur et al., 2011). The resultant phantastic movie was also used by the Hayden Planetarium in New York in their planetarium show “Journey to the stars“.