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Reconstruction and visualization of planetary nebulae

Marcus Magnor, Gordon Kindlmann, Charles Hansen, Neb Duric
MPI Informatik, Saarbrucken, Germany
IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2005

@article{magnor2005reconstruction,

   title={Reconstruction and visualization of planetary nebulae},

   author={Magnor, M. and Kindlmann, G. and Hansen, C. and Duric, N.},

   journal={IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics},

   pages={485–496},

   year={2005},

   publisher={IEEE Computer Society}

}

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From our terrestrially confined viewpoint, the actual three-dimensional shape of distant astronomical objects is, in general, very challenging to determine. For one class of astronomical objects, however, spatial structure can be recovered from conventional 2D images alone. So-called planetary nebulae (PNe) exhibit pronounced symmetry characteristics that come about due to fundamental physical processes. Making use of this symmetry constraint, we present a technique to automatically recover the axisymmetric structure of many planetary nebulae from photographs. With GPU-based volume rendering driving a nonlinear optimization, we estimate the nebula’s local emission density as a function of its radial and axial coordinates and we recover the orientation of the nebula relative to Earth. The optimization refines the nebula model and its orientation by minimizing the differences between the rendered image and the original astronomical image. The resulting model allows creating realistic 3D visualizations of these nebulae, for example, for planetarium shows and other educational purposes. In addition, the recovered spatial distribution of the emissive gas can help astrophysicists gain deeper insight into the formation processes of planetary nebulae.
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