The Astronomical Medicine team has been hard at work to integrate new and improved astronomy capabilities into the newest version of 3D Slicer. Highlight of our next release are
direct FITS file read-in (i.e. GUI integrated fits2itk);
- volume rendering visualization (while preserving surface rendering); and
- the ability to slice 2D images through 3D scenes.
This does equip 3D Slicer with a unique combined set of capabilities. No other package for observational astronomy provides parallel surface and volume rendering, as well as combined 2D and 3D data display. In short, this extends Slicer's unparalleled ability to display several datasets (e.g., 2 molecular emission lines vs. an optical image), something not found in any other tool. Further features are
- full support of astronomical coordinate systems,
- improved marker and annotation options, and a
- newly designed user interface.
These factors do render Slicer 3 one of the most versatile 3D data analysis tools for observational astronomy.
See below to learn how to stay informed about our updates.
Below are some "sneak preview" screenshots. They are based on data from our survey of velocity features in Perseus. Figure 1 presents an example using volume rendering, a major new visualization method available in Slicer 3. In this, the data is rendered as a semi-transparent "gas".
Figure 1: The B5 region in Perseus, visualized using volume rendering. This shows the data as a kind of "gas". These plots are ideal for a first qualitative inspection of the data. Slicer 3 makes them available to the general astronomical community.
Volume rendering is ideal for exploratory situations in which it is not clear what features exactly the data does contain. Instead of highlighting specific data values (e.g., intensities in the examples shown), the user can freely sweep through the whole possible range. Thanks to the new GUI-integrated FITS reader, such a visualization can now be created with a few intuitive mouse clicks.
Figure 2: As Fig. 1, now visualized using surface rendering. Particular features are highlighted by markers. Such visualizations are created during the quantitative final analysis.
Previous versions of Slicer only supported drawing of surfaces (e.g., iso-intensity surfaces at some given intensity). This feature, shown in Fig. 2, is still part of Slicer 3, but is more easily accessible now (again, it only takes a few mouse clicks). Such visualizations are most useful in the quantitative publication-quality analysis of data. Also shown in Fig. 2 are markers (so-called fiducials) that can be used to highlight particular features. Slicer 3 provides extensive options to tailor markers to the user needs, and to place them at the right position.
Slicer 3 is still being actively developed. (3D Slicer is being developed by a large collaboration, to which we only contribute.) Once this process is converging, we will release a public version with the above features.
In development versions, Slicer 3 does already have the features listed above. If you are in urgent need of a better data analysis software, again feel free to contact us to see whether we can help you before the official release date.