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Tour: Travel Through Data From Space in New 3D Instagram Experiences

A new project provides special 3D “experiences” on Instagram using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes through augmented reality, allowing users to travel virtually through objects in space. These new experiences of astronomical objects — including the debris fields of exploded stars — are being released to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of operations from Chandra, NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope.

In recent years, Instagram experiences — previously referred to as filters — of NASA mission control, the International Space Station, and the Perseverance Rover on Mars have allowed users to virtually explore what NASA does. This new set of Chandra Instagram filters joins this space-themed collection.

The new Instagram experiences are created from 3D models based on data collected by Chandra and other telescopes along with mathematical models. Traditionally, it has been very difficult to gather 3D data of objects in space due to their two-dimensional projection on the sky. New instruments and techniques, however, have allowed astronomers in recent years to construct data-driven models of what these distant objects look like in three dimensions.

These advancements in astronomy have paralleled the explosion of opportunities in virtual, extended, and augmented reality. Such technologies provide virtual digital experiences, which now extend beyond Earth and into the cosmos.

This new set of Chandra Instagram filters was made possible by a collaboration including NASA, the Smithsonian Institution, as well as students and researchers at Brown University.

Setting this Chandra set apart from other Instagram experiences, they will include an option to also listen to sonifications of data of the same object. Sonification is the process of translating data into sounds and notes, instead of colors as is typically done in communicating astronomical data. This is a project that Chandra has led on behalf of NASA.

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