Final Report

Project Title: Astronomy Animations

Faculty or Department Requesting Project: George Greenstein, Astronomy Dept.

Interns: Brian Lyons, Tarja Martikainen

Brief Description of Project Task: Create a series of animations that depict difficult to grasp concepts in astronomy

Description of End Result: These animations were very difficult to create. The software that was primarily used to create them, Mathematica, was designed as a mathematical calculator rather than with graphics creation as its primary function. To create even simple shapes such as spheres we had to determine the mathematical formula for the shape then the proper way in which to graph the function to get the effect we desired. Any motion also had to be described mathematically. We created a number of notebooks(the file format of Mathematica) during this process. We created a notebook for the pulsar animation and two for an animation depicting the Spiral Arms of a Galaxy, which we were not able to complete.

A graphics modeling program was used to create one of the animations. Creating the objects in the animations was much easier but animating them was still difficult. The animation that was created with this program(Pluto and Charon) was relatively easy to do because it had a very simple(straight-down) point-of-view. To do this we created a file that described the physical objects present in the scene and a macro script that described the motion of the objects for each frame of the animation.

This project was very time and training intensive and we underestimated the time that it would take so, unfortunately, we were only able to complete 2 of the desired animations. We completed an animation depicting a pulsar with flashes to depict its pulses and an animation that shows the orbit of Pluto and Charon around the sun.

List of Applications Used in Project: Mathemtica 4.0, EasyModel 4.0, Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Fireworks

Links: See all Amherst Astronomy Software