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Special IS&T Colloquium in collaboration with the Office of the Public Affairs (PAO), the James Webb Science Team, and NCSA

Amber Straughn & Donna Cox

NASA-NCSA Collaboration: Supercomputer visualizations in support of JWST Science Objectives

Thurs, March 11, 2010
Building 3 Aud - 1:00 PM
(Coffee at 12:30 PM)

The James Webb Space Telescope is a 6.5-m diameter infrared telescope scheduled for launch in 2014. As NASA's next flagship astrophysics mission, the Webb Telescope will orbit 1 million miles from earth and will observe various aspects of the cosmos-from nearby star systems to the most distant galaxies in the universe. The four Science Themes for the Webb Telescope are The End of the Dark Ages-First Light and Reionization; The Assembly of Galaxies; The Birth of Stars & Protoplanetary Systems; and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

NASA collaborated with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to develop a collection of time-evolving visualizations of scientific simulations that support and communicate important research addressed by JWST science. Professor Donna J. Cox, Director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at NCSA, will describe some of AVL's visualization pipeline and software tools to transform massive amounts of supercomputer and adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) simulations into choreographed, high-definition renders. AVL will show a variety of astrophysics including an evolving protoplanetary disk, interacting galaxies, and the assembly of galactic structure. The AVL has developed a unique virtual choreography environment to control camera paths through large datasets and provide continuous renders through large-scale transitions in time and space. These AVL tools enable a cinematic treatment of science for public outreach. The NCSA-NASA collaboration leverages skillful teamwork with the common goal to increase public awareness of the exciting new discoveries to be generated by JWST and astrophysics.

Amber Straughn is a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow and Lead Scientist for James Webb Amber StraughnSpace Telescope Education and Public Outreach. Her research focuses on interacting and star-forming galaxies in the context of galaxy assembly, and she has most recently been working on data from the new Wide Field Camera 3 on Hubble Space Telescope. Amber obtained her Ph.D. from Arizona State University and B.S. from The University of Arkansas, and works closely with the Goddard Astrophysics Science Division's E/PO team and Public Affairs to design and implement outreach activities for JWST.


Donna J. Cox, MFA, PhD, is the first Michael Aiken Chair, Director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and Director of the Emerging Digital Donna CoxResearch and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a recognized pioneer in supercomputer visualizations and the author of many articles on the art and cultural theory of scientific visualization. AVL and her collaborators have thrilled millions with cinematic virtual tours through computational astrophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography and other domains to support the story-telling of contemporary science through high-definition television shows, digital museum exhibits, and IMAX movies. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry selected Donna Cox as one of 40 modern Leonardo Da Vinci's.

IS&T Colloquium Committee Host: Helen-Nicole Kostis

Sign language interpreter upon request: 301-286-8313
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