Astrophysicists Use Virtual Reality To Chase Earth's Tail

November 12, 1998

Astrophysicists at the University of Warwick are using a 3D virtual reality system to research the Earth's electromagnetic tail.

This tail, similar in shape to other large solar system phenomena such as Solar flares, results from the interactions of the Earth's own magnetic field with the electromagnetic activity generated by the Sun.

The tail is much studied by astrophysicists, and agonised over by operators of telecommunications satellites concerned about the serious affects on radio communications that can be caused by occasional instabilities in the tail known as "substorms".

Dr. Sandra Chapman, Aders Ynnerman and the Space and Astrophysics Group (based in the Physics Department at the University of Warwick) are currently trying to get a better understanding of this area of near Earth space by modelling the behaviour of individual charged particles within the tail. Their model suggested that the particles could follow a complex three dimensional path that was difficult to decipher by simply viewing it on a two dimensional piece of paper or computer screen.

After days of deliberation using two dimensional methods (which included at one point trying to make a three dimensional model out of bits of multicoloured duct tape!) the researchers decided that the charged particle was following the path of an unusual but very familiar mathematical shape known as a moebius strip. Dr. Chapman then had an opportunity to examine data on some three dimensional imaging virtual reality equipment in the US and Japan, and was able to confirm in minutes that the answer they had agonised over for days was correct.

It surprised no one then that when the opportunity came to bid for new equipment under the Higher Education Funding Councils for England's Joint Research Equipment Initiative (JREI) that Dr. Chapman made a strong bid for a virtual reality 3D imaging facility to be based at Warwick. Her arguments persuaded all concerned and Warwick's Space and Astrophysics Group now hosts a 3D virtual reality facility based around an "ImmersaDesk" and a "Onyx 2" computer - one of now only two such sets of equipment available anywhere in the UK.

The equipment allows pairs of researchers to don special goggles to immerse themselves in a virtual reality three dimensional space based on any three dimensional modelling data they wish to examine. Dr Chapman's group will use it to examine further the earth's own magnetosphere and geomagnetic tail. However, the equipment will also be available to collaborators across Warwick's science departments and there are already discussions as to how the equipment may help colleagues in other departments with problems that require 3D imaging of medical, engineering and mathematical problems.

University of Warwick

Related Virtual Reality Articles from Brightsurf:

Virtual reality helps measure vulnerability to stress
Behavioral scientists at EPFL have developed a virtual reality test that assesses a person's vulnerability to stress while exploring immersive environments.

Virtual reality forests could help understanding of climate change
The effects of climate change are sometimes difficult to grasp, but now a virtual reality forest, created by geographers, can let people walk through a simulated forest of today and see what various futures may hold for the trees.

New virtual reality software allows scientists to 'walk' inside cells
Virtual reality software which allows researchers to 'walk' inside and analyze individual cells could be used to understand fundamental problems in biology and develop new treatments for disease.

From virtual to reality! Virtual training improves physical and cognitive functions
Researchers at the Smart-Aging Research Center (IDAC) at Tohoku University have developed an innovative training protocol that, utilizing immersive virtual reality (IVR), leads to real physical and cognitive benefits.

Virtual and augmented reality: warnings about the ethical dangers
Research on virtual reality started in the eighties, but it is now that good quality is available to the public and it can become a mass consumer product soon.

Easing the burden of coronavirus with virtual reality
A new article discusses the psychological stresses imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and suggests that virtual reality can help alleviate the psychological impact of the need for social isolation.

Virtual reality makes empathy easier
Virtual reality activates brain networks that increase your ability to identify with other people, according to new research published in eNeuro.

Physiotherapy could be done at home using virtual reality
Virtual reality could help physiotherapy patients complete their exercises at home successfully thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, who managed to combine VR technology with 3D motion capture.

Using virtual reality to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder
Novel interventions using virtual reality to aid individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) handle common scenarios may include helping youngsters navigate air travel.

Virtual reality illuminates the power of opioid-associated memories
The brain acts differently when remembering environments associated with drug use.

Read More: Virtual Reality News and Virtual Reality Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to