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SER: New Scientific Visualization Tool for Exoplanets

posted Sep 15, 2011, 4:00 AM by Abel Mendez Torres   [ updated Jun 30, 2012, 1:42 PM ]
The Scientific Exoplanets Renderer (SER) is a new scientific software tool by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) to generate photorealistic visualizations of exoplanets. SER uses physical properties from exoplanets and their parent stars to generate possible scenarios for their visual appearance as seem from space. Many parameters can be adjusted based on estimates of their atmospheric and surface physics and chemistry.

SER is specially designed to reconstruct Earth-like exoplanets, either rocky or ocean in nature, but it is also able to generate visuals for gas giants and stars. It includes the reconstruction of realistic atmospheric clouds motion and weather effects. A major strength of SER is its ability to recreate habitable planets.

There are many scientific applications for SER besides the artistic and educational nature of visualizations. For example, it can be used to interpret and visualize results from General Circulation Models (GCM) of planets, reconstruct light-curves, albedo studies, and stellar transit simulations, including moons. Current test models of SER operate in the visual range but future developments will include the infrared.

SER was not designed as a real-time generator of planetary surfaces because it uses true optical physics for its rendering and this is a very demanding computational task. However, it can generate textures that can be later used in real-time applications and CGI animations.

SER was motivated by some of the tools developed for our Visible Paleo-Earth Project and the need for visuals for our Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. SER is now on alpha test and it will be released to the general scientific and educational community early next year on the PHL website (phl.upr.edu).

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Science Contact: Prof. Abel Mendez, Planetary Habitability Laboratory, University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo
Email: abel.mendez@upr.edu