Adler Planetarium

Exploring the Third Dimension of Cassiopeia A

Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

One of the most famous objects in the sky - the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant - will be on display like never before, thanks to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and a new project from the Smithsonian Institution. A new three-dimensional (3D) viewer, being unveiled this week, will allow users to interact with many one-of-a-kind objects from the Smithsonian as part of a large-scale effort to digitize many of the Institutions objects and artifacts.

Scientists have combined data from Chandra, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities to construct a unique 3D model of the 300-year old remains of a stellar explosion that blew a massive star apart, sending the stellar debris rushing into space at millions of miles per hour. The collaboration with this new Smithsonian 3D project will allow the astronomical data collected on Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, to be featured and highlighted in an open-access program -- a major innovation in digital technologies with public, education, and research-based impacts.

Cas A is the only supernova remnant to date to be modeled in 3D. In order to create this visualization, unique software that links the fields of astrophysics and medical imaging (known as "astronomical medicine") was used. Since its initial release in 2009, the 3D model has proven a rich resource for scientists as well as an effective tool for communicating science to the public. Providing this newly formatted data in an open source framework with finely-tuned contextual materials will greatly broaden awareness and participation for general public, teacher, student and researcher audiences.

Read the full story on NASA's website

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