Computer Graphics
TU Braunschweig

Astrophysical Modeling and Visualization


Humans have been fascinated by astrophysical phenomena since prehistoric times. But while the measurement and image acquisition devices have evolved enormously by now, many restrictions still apply when capturing astronomical data. The most notable limitation is our confined vantage point in the solar system, disallowing us to observe distant objects from different points of view.

In an interdisciplinary German-Mexican research project partially funded by German DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, grants MA 2555/7-1 and 444 MEX-113/25/0-1) and Mexican CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, grants 49447 and UNAM DGAPA-PAPIIT IN108506-2), we evaluate different approaches for automatical reconstruction of plausible three-dimensional models of planetary nebulae. The team comprises astrophysicists working on planetary nebula morphology as well as computer scientists experienced in the field of reconstruction and visualization of astrophysical objects.

The data sets shown in this video are available for download.

The data sets shown in this video are available for download.

Results of this project are included in planetarium software by several vendors, including Digistar by Evans & Sutherland as well as Uniview by SCISS.


Stephan Wenger, Dirk Lorenz, Marcus Magnor:
Fast Image-Based Modeling of Astronomical Nebulae
in Computer Graphics Forum (Proc. of Pacific Graphics PG), vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 93-100, October 2013.

Wolfgang Steffen, Nicholas Koning, A Esquivel, G. Garcia-Segura, Ma. T. Garcia-Diaz, J.A. Lopez, Marcus Magnor:
A wind-shell interaction model for multipolar planetary nebulae
in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 436, no. 1, pp. 470-478, September 2013.

Kai Ruhl, Stephan Wenger, Dennis Franke, Julius Saretzki, Marcus Magnor:
Fine-Scale Editing of Continuous Volumes using Adaptive Surfaces
in Proc. Vision, Modeling and Visualization (VMV), pp. 1-2, September 2013.

Stephan Wenger, Marco Ament, Stefan Guthe, Dirk Lorenz, Andreas Tillmann, Daniel Weiskopf, Marcus Magnor:
Visualization of Astronomical Nebulae via Distributed Multi-GPU Compressed Sensing Tomography
in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG, Proc. Visualization / InfoVis), vol. 18, no. 12, pp. 2188-2197, June 2012.

Stephan Wenger, Marco Ament, Wolfgang Steffen, Nicholas Koning, Daniel Weiskopf, Marcus Magnor:
Interactive Visualization and Simulation of Astronomical Nebulae
in Computing in Science & Engineering, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 78-87, May 2012.
Editorial article.

Wolfgang Steffen, Nicholas Koning, Stephan Wenger, Christophe Morisset, Marcus Magnor:
Shape: A 3D Modeling Tool for Astrophysics
in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 454-465, April 2011.

Stephan Wenger, Juan Aja Fernández, Christophe Morisset, Marcus Magnor:
Algebraic 3D Reconstruction of Planetary Nebulae
in Journal of WSCG, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 33-40, February 2009.

Juan Aja Fernández, Stephan Wenger, Christophe Morisset, Marcus Magnor:
Algebraic 3D Reconstruction of Planetary Nebulae
Technical Report no. 7, Inst. f. Computergraphik, TU Braunschweig, July 2008.

Related Projects

Lunar Surface Relief Reconstruction

Our "Astrographics" research group works on various methods to overcome the difficulties associated with gaining knowledge about faraway astronomical objects using computer vision and computer graphics algorithms. In this project, we have computed plausible 3D surface data for the moon from photographic imagery from the 1960's "Lunar Orbiter" mission.

Radio Astronomy Synthesis Imaging

Radio interferometers sample an image of the sky in the spatial frequency domain. Reconstructing the image from a necessarily incomplete set of samples is an ill-posed inverse problem that we address with methods inspired by the theory of compressed sensing.

During two research visits to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the University of New Mexico, both gratefully funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, we had the unique opportunity to work together with world-leading experts in radio astronomy synthesis imaging to develop new algorithms for the Very Large Array (VLA) and other radio telescope arrays.