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ISSUE 31 - October 2022

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Exploring the Frontiers of Space in 3D: Immersive Virtual Reality for Astronomy Outreach (page 28)
Impey, C.; Danehy, A.


An immersive, virtual exhibit of large telescopes and space missions is described. The exhibit aims to overcome the difficulty members of the public have in appreciating the scale and complexity of modern astronomical research facilities. Using detailed 3D models, ground- and space-based telescopes that are impossible to visit in person can be explored by moving through a virtual space. The exhibit was created using Unreal Engine, a tool developed by Epic Games. Users wear Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets and traverse the 3D exhibit using Xbox game controllers. CAD models were gathered from open access sources and with the help of the staff of major observatories. The first version of the exhibit highlights telescopes and planetary missions with major involvement of the University of Arizona, but it can be customised to include any major telescope or space mission. Visitors can experience the 6.5-meter MMT, the twin 8.4-meter LBT, the 24.5-meter GMT, the 25-metre Very Large Array radio dish, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, the Phoenix Mars lander, and the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft alongside a 3D model of the asteroid Bennu. The exhibit was successfully debuted at an outreach event hosted by the University of Arizona in Washington, DC.

Suggested Citation (APA)
CImpey, C. and Danehy, A. (2022). Exploring the frontiers of space in 3D: Immersive virtual reality for astronomy outreach. Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal, 31, 28-36.

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