Povray for Science
The Persistence of Vision Raytracer
is a high-quality, totally free tool for
creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official
versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available
for those wanting to do their own ports.
Can it be used for science? Well, at least in astronomy many observers and
even theorists use so-called "toy-models" to visualize their models.
A "toy model" is something that is not strictly scientific but still
based upon - "heavily simplified" - scientific assumptions. You want to imagine
the 3D geometry of the latest star forming region you observed? You want
to communicate the results of a hydrodynamical calculation to non-imaginative
observeres without calling the radiative transfer specialist in advance?
Povray is your tool!
One of the great advantages of povray is that it can easily render complete
animation sequences. As an example please find here the collapse of a molecular
cloud to a protostar including its accretion disk.
Another animation - here is what happens a little later than in the animation above:
The formation of a planet in a circumstellar disk.