The interactive 3-D astrophysical laboratory

Images inspire us. Images lead to ideas. Shape was made as a tool to test astrophysical inspiration. Play True or False. By finding out whether an idea works or not, either way, we deliver new insight into nature for ourselves and others. That is why with Shape we make 3-D images of the universe...and more...

Shape responds to your scientific creativity for morpho-kinematic modeling or spectral radiation transfer calculations.
Create schematic educational visualizations or even photo-realistic images of astronomical objects.

Our Introduction and Overview gives you more information about
what you can do with Shape.

UPDATE REQUIRED (January 21, 2022) 
Due to a bug in some renders after camera rotation, 
an update is needed. Please go to the DOWNLOADS for a link to the patch and instructions.

SBa Galaxy

This 3-D volumetric galaxy model was created in ShapeX based on a detailed analysis of an actual galaxy image.

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The Orion Nebula

This volumetric 3-D model of the Orion Nebula was created using pure polygon mesh and path objects with radiation transfer computation for the scattering and absorption by the dust from the central illuminating stars.

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Proto-planetary disk with jet.

The dusty disk of this proto-planetary object has an enriched structure using noise-textures added to a relatively low-resolution hydrodynamic simulation from the Hydro Module. The disk and jet were then separated using filters and assigned different emission (jet) and dust scattering (disk) properties.

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Ring Nebula

For the creation of this planetary nebula the application of image texture mapping along the line of sight allowed to include details of the dusty globules at precisely the right projected positions in the nebula.

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The environment of Eta Carinae
The environment of Eta Carinae

This is the complex mesh structure that Mehner et al. (2016) used to model the fast expanding gaseous environment of the massive Eta Carinae stellar binary system.

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Eta Carinae Homunculus model

This simple bipolar model of the dusty Homunculus around Eta Carinae demonstrates the multi-wavelength modeling capabilities with ShapeX. From left to right the wavelength range of the rendering moves from the optical to the infrared.

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Shape was created by
Wolfgang Steffen and Nico Koning. 


Shape is free software supported by

the Institute of Astronomy, UNAM. 

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User Guide

Learn about the possibilities and limitations of astrophysical modeling and visualization in Shape. What types of physical models can be done. Whether you pursue research or outreach, find out what you can do and what you need to learn to successfully apply Shape in your field.


A quick tour is given through the integrated modules of Shape is given. We briefly describe how they work individually and how the general workflow brings everything together via interactive input but no need for a single line of coding from the user.


The modular design of Shape allows the user to concentrate on the job at hand. The desktop and the main toolbar are the hubs to get you around. In this section we describe the functionality of each of the modules, so you can quickly decide which one will be needed for your project.


Images, spatially resolved spectra and other data can be displayed as direct background references to build your models. Such data images need to be prepared carefully and correctly imported into Shape. In this section we describe how such data images can be prepared and set up in Shape.


Detailed knowledge of the various coordinate systems is necessary to correctly modeling in Shape. This is particularly true when kinematic are to be modeled. Here is a description of the coordinate systems in different contexts of the available tools. 


Mathematical and physical details about the radiation transfer on the Cartesian grid in Shape are described. The physics and approximations for the calculations of scattering on dust particles are also layed out.