Interactive Volume Rendering Aurora on the GPU

Orion Sky Lawlor, Jon Genetti
Department of Computer Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Journal of WSCG 2011, ISBN 1213-6972, WSCG’2011, H41, 2011


   title={Interactive Volume Rendering Aurora on the GPU},

   author={Lawlor, O.S. and Genetti, J.},



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We present a combination of techniques to render the aurora borealis in real time on a modern graphics processing unit (GPU). Unlike the general 3D volume rendering problem, an auroral display is emissive and can be factored into a height-dependent energy deposition function, and a 2D electron flux map. We also present a GPU-friendly atmosphere model, which includes an integrable analytic approximation of the atmosphere’s density along a ray. Together, these techniques enable a modern consumer graphics card to realistically render the aurora at 20-80fps, from any point of view either inside or outside the atmosphere.
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