Friday, January 25, 2013

The NASA Hyperwall at AAS

The NASA Hyperwall at the 2012 AAS meeting in Austin.
Image Credit
At this year's AAS meeting, the CANDELS team was given the opportunity to present the survey to the wider astronomical community by giving a presentation on the NASA Hyperwall. The NASA Hyperwall (shown to the right) is a set of nine high resolution screens put together to form a large display wall. It is taken to meetings like the AAS and set up in the exhibit hall. The high resolution (4104 x 2304 pixels) is fantastic for showing HD movies and animations and large astronomical images.

Janine Pforr, David Jones, and I gave the CANDELS presentation on the Wednesday of the meeting. The exhibit hall was full of people viewing posters at the time, so many people stopped by to watch our presentation. Janine kicked it off with a description of the CANDELS survey, our goals, and some of the science objectives that we have been discussing in various blog posts here. She showed the large color mosaic of GOODS-S and zoomed in to just a portion of the field so the audience could see the richness of the data set and many of the galaxies in detail. These images look fantastic on such a large screen and it was our first opportunity to see our data displayed this way. Janine also showed a couple of galaxy simulations (such as the one below).


Bolshoi Simulation: Bolshoi Fly-Through, by Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack, visualized by Chris Henze, NASA Ames Research Center.

Next, I took that portion of the mosaic and zoomed into a handful of interesting objects to highlight some of our science goals and some of our papers. I showed the power of deep near-infrared imaging with a comparison of galaxies with very different morphology in the optical. I discussed the work that our group has been doing with galaxy morphology at high redshift and also highlighted the papers of Arjen van der Wel and Stijn Wuyts. Finally, David Jones wrapped up the presentation by discussing the results of the the supernovae part of the project.

In addition to CANDELS, both of the other multicycle treasury projects gave presentations. Julianne Dalcanton presented PHAT -- the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury Survey. PHAT is imaging a large portion of the Andromeda Galaxy with Hubble in several different filters. With HST resolution, millions of individual stars can be identified and studied in great detail. The images that Julianne showed on the Hyperwall were stunning!

There was also a presentation on CLASH -- the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble -- PI: Marc Postman. CLASH is imaging 25 massive galaxy clusters with Hubble in order to map out the distribution of dark matter in great detail and study even more distant galaxies that have been gravitationally lensed by the mass of the cluster.

During the meeting there were many other amazing presentations on the Hyperwall. I particularly enjoyed the talk by Frank Summers from the Space Telescope Science Institute on astronomical visualizations. He showed many HST images as well as some fascinating movies that combine simulation data and real images in incredible ways. My personal favorite was the one shown below, which illustrates the entire merger sequence of galaxies by combining a merger simulation with HST images of galaxy mergers at various stages. This video looked great on such a large screen!


Galaxy Merger visualization of a supercomputer simulation illustrating the entire merger sequence. Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Summers (STScI). Simulation Data: Chris Mihos (Case Western Reserve University) and Lars Hernquist (Harvard University)

We had a good time preparing our Hyperwall presentation and getting to see all of the other things people presented on the big screen. Part of the fun was that all of these talks were quite different from normal astronomical talks. These talks were really focused on the visuals with very little, if any, text on the screen. They were also aimed at a level that everyone, even non experts, could enjoy. I am looking forward to the creative things presented on the Hyperwall next year! 

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