C'est moi.

Dr. Wolfgang Steffen

Instituto de Astronomía,
Ensenada, México,

Outreach (Spanish)


Perfection is not an option











3D printer

NEWS: Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and its X-Shooter spectrograph, the Eta Carinae Homunculus nebula was imaged near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet wavelengths along 92 separate swaths across the nebula, making the most complete spectral map to date. The spatial and velocity information provided by this data to create the first full 3D model of the Homunculus Nebula with no assumed assymmetries that would hide the features discovered in this work.

The Shape model was developed using only a single emission line of near-infrared light emitted by molecular hydrogen gas. The characteristic 2.12-micron light shifts in wavelength slightly depending on the speed and direction of the expanding gas, allowing the team to probe even dust-obscured portions of the Homunculus that face away from Earth.

[Based on the NASA/GSFC press release on the publication by W. Steffen, M. Teodoro, T. I. Madura, J. H. Groh, T. R. Gull, A. Mehner, M. F. Corcoran, A. Damineli and K. Hamaguchi, 2014, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 442 (2), 3316-3328, http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.1093/mnras/stu1088]

Below is an image of our 3D-print of the Homunulus model. The print was produced at the UNAM Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Ensenada, Mexico. With our new printer improved prints of this and other 3D Shape models will be possible. This will especially benefit blind persons, who can now experience the shape of astronomical nebulae with their sense of touch.

Eta Car 3D print


I work mainly on the interface between theoretical studies of hydrodynamic flows and their observations, developing effective ways to directly compare observations of particular objects with theoretical models. During my early career I developed models for the kinematics and brightness variations in relativistic helical radio jets and the hydrodynamic interaction of radio jets with the interstellar medium in Seyfert galaxies.

More recently my work has been mainly on the hydrodynamics and kinematics of circumstellar nebulae, applying hydrodynamic simulations and 3D morpho-kinematic modeling. The development and application of the interactive 3D morpho-kinematic modeling code Shape together with Nico Koning is currently the main focus of research. Circumstellar environments, 3D hydrodinamics, radiation transfer, exoplanet transits, or even quark novae, are prime targets for the application of Shape. I recently developed a new kinematic mapping technique called "criss-cross" mapping that is a direct spin-off from the modeling of planetary nebulae with Shape.

The development of Shape is based on my experience with the 3D visualization of astrophysical phenomena using computer graphics tools like 3DStudioMax and Blender. Using 3DStudio Max I produce videos and computer animations of astronomical topics for press releases and educational purposes in general. Some of this work can be found on my YouTube channel.