Interactive visualization of space weather data

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Linköpings universitet/Medie- och InformationsteknikTekniska högskolan


This work serves to present the background, approach, and selected results for the initial master thesis and prototyping phase of Open Space, a joint visualization software development project by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Linköping University (LiU) and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The thesis report provides a theoretical introduction to heliophysics, modeling of space weather events, volumetric rendering, and an understanding of how these relate in the bigger scope of Open Space. A set of visualization tools that are currently used at NASA and AMNH are presented and discussed. These tools are used to visualize global heliosphere models, both for scientific studies and for public presentations, and are mainly making use of geometric rendering techniques. The paper will, in detail, describe a new approach to visualize the science models with volumetric rendering to better represent the volumetric structure of the data. Custom processors have been developed for the open source volumetric rendering engine Voreen, to load and visualize science models provided by the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Selected parts of the code are presented by C++ code examples. To best represent models that are defined in non-Cartesian space, a new approach to volumetric rendering is presented and discussed. Compared to the traditional approach of transforming such models to Cartesian space, this new approach performs no such model transformations, and thus minimizes the amount of empty voxels and introduces less interpolation artifacts. Final results are presented as rendered images and are discussed from a scientific visualization perspective, taking into account the physics representation, potential rendering artifacts, and the rendering performance.

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