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Walking Through an Exploded Star: Rendering Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A into Virtual Reality

Kimberly K. Arcand, Elaine Jiang, Sara Price, Megan Watzke, Tom Sgouros, Peter Edmonds (Submitted on 15 Dec 2018)

NASA and other astrophysical data of the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant have been rendered into a three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) program, the first of its kind. This data-driven experience of a supernova remnant allows viewers to walk inside the leftovers from the explosion of a massive star, select the parts of the supernova remnant to engage with, and access descriptive texts on what the materials are. The basis of this program is a unique 3D model of the 340-year old remains of a stellar explosion, made by combining data from the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities. A collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Brown University allowed the 3D astronomical data collected on Cassiopeia A to be featured in the VR/AR program, which is an innovation in digital technologies with public, education, and research-based impacts.