The physical properties of molecular clouds are often measured using spectral-line observations, which provide the only probes of the clouds' velocity structure. It is hard, though, to assess whether and to what extent intensity features in position-position-velocity (PPV) space correspond to "real" density structures in position-position-position (PPP) space. In this paper, we create synthetic molecular cloud spectral-line maps of simulated molecular clouds, and present a new technique for measuring the reality of individual PPV structures. Using a dendrogram algorithm, we identify hierarchical structures in both PPP and PPV space. Our procedure projects density structures identified in PPP space into corresponding intensity structures in PPV space and then measures the geometric overlap of the projected structures with structures identified from the synthetic observation. The fractional overlap between a PPP and PPV structure quantifies how well the synthetic observation recovers information about the three-dimensional structure. Applying this machinery to a set of synthetic observations of CO isotopes, we measure how well spectral-line measurements recover mass, size, velocity dispersion, and virial parameter for a simulated star-forming region. By disabling various steps of our analysis, we investigate how much opacity, chemistry, and gravity affect measurements of physical properties extracted from PPV cubes. For the simulations used here, which offer a decent, but not perfect, match to the properties of a star-forming region like Perseus, our results suggest that superposition induces a 40% uncertainty in masses, sizes, and velocity dispersions derived from 13 CO ( J = 1-0). As would be expected, superposition and confusion is worst in regions where the filling factor of emitting material is large. The virial parameter is most affected by superposition, such that estimates of the virial parameter derived from PPV and PPP information typically disagree by a factor of 2. This uncertainty makes it particularly difficult to judge whether gravitational or kinetic energy dominate a given region, since the majority of virial parameter measurements fall within a factor of two of the equipartition level α 2.
We give a brief overview of some key features of WorldWide Telescope and its Ambassadors Program, and we describe two goals for expanding the program in the coming year: scaling up training efforts; and developing “plug and play” Visualization Lab modules that teach key Earth and Space Science concepts to students while emphasizing important scientific processes and skills. We discuss several different ways that members of the astronomy education and outreach community can incorporate WWT-based materials into their work.
We discuss a set of fifteen new interactive, educational, online software modules developed by Harvard University graduate students to demonstrate various concepts related to astronomy and physics. Their achievement demonstrates that online software tools for education and outreach on specialized topics can be produced while simultaneously fulfilling project-based learning objectives. We describe a set of technologies suitable for module development and present in detail four examples of modules developed by the students. We offer recommendations for incorporating educational software development within a graduate curriculum and conclude by discussing the relevance of this novel approach to new online learning environments like edX.