RSAA Colloquia / Seminars / Feast-of-Facts: Tuesday, 30 October 2018, 11:00-12:00; Duffield Lecture Theatre

Thomas Jarrett

"The Future is Here, Astrophysics with Virtual Reality"

Astronomers will increasingly rely on AI and machine learning code to sift and sort through the mountains of data that are now upon us, growing in volume and complexity by the day. As the diamonds in the rough are identified, it will still come down to careful and close inspection to disentangle the natural secrets within. Astrophysical data is inherently multi-parameter, with the spatial dimensions at the core centre of imaging, spectral, time-domain and simulation data. With the dawn of powerful GPUs and virtual-reality (VR) technology we are no longer limited to flat screens to emulate 3-D cosmic views. Leveraging the significantly improved VR headsets with the powerful programming tools developed for visualisation gaming, the time is right for astronomers to deploy such technology to interrogate and interact with complex multidimensional data. Here I will present the development work in our visualisation laboratory - using HTC VIVE-PRO and Samsung Odyssey VR tech, the Unreal Engine C++ and Unity programming C# foundations - that supports our research on galaxy evolution, cosmic web large scale structure, galaxy-galaxy interaction simulations, and gas/kinematics of nearby galaxies. The Big Data Era ushered in by the SKA and its Pathfinders challenges our storage, calibration, reduction and refinement methods, and it also demands innovative ways to interrogate the data at intuitive - visualisation - levels necessary for new discovery.