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Researchers to create Virtual Reality model of the Milky Way

Using data from over a billion stars, a research team at Lund University in Sweden are developing an interactive 3D model of the Milky Way galaxy. This could enable new types of discoveries that aren’t possible with current tools - perhaps even unraveling how the Milky Way was formed.
Animation of the Milky Way (Image: Oscar Agertz)
Animation of the Milky Way (Image: Oscar Agertz)

The data being used is from the Gaia satellite that was launched in 2013. It orbits the Earth and collects data from over a billion stars.

“This will be the best map of the Milky Way we have so far. A Virtual Reality immersion is something we are very keen on exploring, as it can help us identify patterns and structures in very complex data”, explains Oscar Agertz, astronomy researcher at Lund University.

One example of this is identifying patterns in stellar streams – something that would be easier to do using the model, according to the researchers. This could provide new insights into how the Milky Way was formed.

“We believe researchers will be able to analyse the data in a completely new, more intuitive way, by actually immersing themselves in the star data”, concludes Mattias Wallergård, interaction design researcher at Lund University.

About the project:

The research project is transdisciplinary, and merges astronomy with design sciences. It is a part of DATA, a research theme at The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies at Lund University. The team will also be collaborating with Henrik Garde and Diederick C Niehorster from the Humanities Lab at Lund University. The team hopes to have a prototype of the model in about eight months.

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