Interactive Visualization of the Largest Radioastronomy Cubes

A.H. Hassan, C.J. Fluke, D.G. Barnes
Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
New Astronomy 16 (2011), pp. 100-109, arXiv:1008.0135v1 [astro-ph.IM] (1 Aug 2010)


   title={Interactive Visualization of the Largest Radioastronomy Cubes},

   author={Hassan, AH and Fluke, CJ and Barnes, DG},

   journal={New Astronomy},





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3D visualization is an important data analysis and knowledge discovery tool, however, interactive visualization of large 3D astronomical datasets poses a challenge for many existing data visualization packages. We present a solution to interactively visualize larger-than-memory 3D astronomical data cubes by utilizing a heterogeneous cluster of CPUs and GPUs. The system partitions the data volume into smaller sub-volumes that are distributed over the rendering workstations. A GPU-based ray casting volume rendering is performed to generate images for each sub-volume, which are composited to generate the whole volume output, and returned to the user. Datasets including the HI Parkes All Sky Survey (HIPASS – 12 GB) southern sky and the Galactic All Sky Survey (GASS – 26 GB) data cubes were used to demonstrate our framework’s performance. The framework can render the GASS data cube with a maximum render time < 0.3 second with 1024 x 1024 pixels output resolution using 3 rendering workstations and 8 GPUs. Our framework will scale to visualize larger datasets, even of Terabyte order, if proper hardware infrastructure is available.
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