Thursday, June 18, 2009

Moon Magic: Researchers Develop New Tool to Visualize Past, Future Lunar Eclipses

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a model that can generate picture-perfect images of lunar eclipses. Professor Barbara Cutler assisted graduate student Theodore C. Yapo with configuring and combining models for sunlight, the solar system, and the different layers and effects of the Earth's atmosphere to simulate and render a visualization of a lunar eclipse. The tool can show how famous eclipses in history look, how future ones will look, and how they would appear to someone in New York, Rome, or from any other geographical location on Earth.
Cutler and Yapo say it is almost impossible to distinguish the computer-generated images of eclipses from actual photos. "Other researchers have rendered the night sky, the moon, and sunsets, but this is the first time anyone has rendered lunar eclipses," Cutler says. "Our models may help with investigations into historical atmospheric phenomena, and they could also be of interest to artists looking to add this special effect to their toolbox."

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