3D Mapping of the MASER disk in NGC 1194

A data-driven animation about an amazing cosmic phenomena: MASER!
MASER is an acronym for “Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Essentially, this is the same process as for LASER, except that the amplified light is emitted at microwave frequencies rather than in the optical. The result is highly intense radiation at a precise frequency of 22.2 GHz. Due to an effect called Doppler effect the frequency that we observe from these regions changes if the source moves towards or away from us. Just light the sound of an ambulance changes which passes by our ears. Astronomers can use this frequency shift to analyze the movement of gas in distant galaxies.
The animation shows a 3D data visualization of MASER spots in the active galaxy NGC 1194. The galaxy is 182 million light years away from Earth! Using more than 7 years of different combinations of radio observations, graduate student Eugenia Fink (née Litzinger, Uni Wuerzburg) analyzed the velocities of maser emission regions which orbit around the central black hole of the galaxy. She was able to measure the distance of each maser spot and derive the size of the disk. With a diameter of 16 – 52 light years it belongs to the largest maser disks known today. However, due to the distant of the galaxy this size is smaller than 1/1000 of the moon!
For the animation, radio data is mapped into 3D space in order to show the reconstructed geometry of the warped rotating maser disk in the central region of NGC 1194.

Published by

Annika Kreikenbolm

The universe is an amazing playground. Thanks to physics we are able to explore this wonderful world and discover phenomena which lie beyond our own perception. I have always been fascinated by the concept of spacetime and the evolution of the universe. Hence, I studied physics and graduated as PhD in astronomy in 2019. However, my fascination for astronomy has always been accompanied by an interest in art and philosophy. I think visualization is a big part of science. In fact, besides data analysis it was one of my favorite exercises in science to turn complex or abstract concepts into an image.
I became interested in science communication through visualization and studied communication design during my PhD and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2020.
I think both the general public as well as scientist benefit from interactive (data) visualizations. Therefore I am specializing in creating interactive virtual environments in which abstract world become real and interactable, ready to be explore by both researchers and laymen.

Currently, I work as both astronomer and information designer at the physics institute of the University of Wuerzburg in the department of teaching.

This artwork is copyright © Annika Kreikenbolm. All rights reserved.