Frédéric P.A. Vogt, Chris I. Owen, Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro, Sanchayeeta Borthakur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Most modern astrophysical data sets are multi-dimensional; a characteristic that can nowadays generally be conserved and exploited scientifically during the data reduction/simulation and analysis cascades. However, the same multi-dimensional data sets are systematically cropped, sliced, and/or projected to printable two-dimensional diagrams at the publication stage. In this article, we introduce the concept of the "X3D pathway" as a mean of simplifying and easing the access to data visualization and publication via three-dimensional (3D) diagrams. The X3D pathway exploits the facts that (1) the X3D 3D file format lies at the center of a product tree that includes interactive HTML documents, 3D printing, and high-end animations, and (2) all high-impact-factor and peer-reviewed journals in astrophysics are now published (some exclusively) online. We argue that the X3D standard is an ideal vector for sharing multi-dimensional data sets because it provides direct access to a range of different data visualization techniques, is fully open source, and is a well-defined standard from the International Organization for Standardization. Unlike other earlier propositions to publish multi-dimensional data sets via 3D diagrams, the X3D pathway is not tied to specific software (prone to rapid and unexpected evolution), but instead is compatible with a range of open-source software already in use by our community. The interactive HTML branch of the X3D pathway is also actively supported by leading peer-reviewed journals in the field of astrophysics. Finally, this article provides interested readers with a detailed set of practical astrophysical examples designed to act as a stepping stone toward the implementation of the X3D pathway for any other data set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • methods: data analysis
  • publications, bibliography
  • standards
  • techniques: miscellaneous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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