The 3D star browser in our VR facility

Old readers of my blog will know that I have been experimenting with Avalon by building a 3D star browser using the Sload Digitial Sky Survey data. I have ported the previous version of the StarBrowser to the Avalon March 2005 CTP but my laptop’s hardware cannot really cope so I have put the experiment on hold.

The idea of visualising the stars of our galaxy in 3D is not new. There are many projects out there. However, more than a year ago, when we started working on the WhiteDwarfs project we too wanted to do something in this area. We then said that we were going to visualise the results in 3D after the analysis stage for locating white dwarfs in our galaxy. That part of the application was made available as an MSc. project which I supervised over the summer of 2004. Rumesh (my MSc. student, now a PhD student with Patrick Olivier) did an excellent job at visualising the data using OpenGL. His project was great (a paper is being prepared as a result of that work). The last screenshot on the WhiteDwarfs project page is from Rumesh‘s work.

Although he’s been very busy with his PhD work, Rumesh still spent some time on his StarBrowser and yesterday Paul and I went to see it running on our SGI Cave Virtual Reality facility here at the University of Newcastle, the Devonshire building where we are based… 3D glasses and a huge screen gave us a feeling of actually being inside our galaxy (well… a very small part of our galaxy given the very very small set of stars currently being used). The feeling was really great. Here’s a photograph of Rumesh wearing the 3D glasses in front of one of the Cave screens. Great stuff.

(All the stars look as binary stars to us but that’s because we are not wearing 3D glasses. The colours of the stars represent their type based on the observed spectroscopic values. The current algorithm used to calculate colour/distance from earth is not the best possible but Rumesh is planning to incorporate a slightly better one soon.)

I think this is great stuff.