A child looks up at Solarium at the Goddard Visitor Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Photo Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Solarium — an innovative new piece of video art — puts you directly in the heart of this mesmerizing show. The art taps into a vast reservoir of imagery from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
SDO watches ultratraviolet light invisible to the naked eye to track how material dances through the solar atmosphere. SDO takes a picture almost once a second -- no other solar observatory has ever collected data on the entire sun at the speeds with which SDO does. Each image has eight times as much resolution as an HD TV.
graphical mock-up of Solarium installationScientists use SDO to trace how material courses through the layers of the solar atmosphere, the corona, powering gigantic burst of x-rays called solar flares and eruptions of solar particles that swirl upward and fall back down — or sometimes escape the sun’s gravity altogether, surging out into space. The observatory records the solar images as a binary code, ones and zeros, which computer programs can translate into black-and-white pictures. Scientists colorize the images for realism, and then zoom in on areas of interest.
Each of SDO's colors relate to a wavelength of ultraviolet light, which in turn relates to a specific temperature of material on the sun. Each color highlights different events on the sun, for example teal is best for seeing flares, and yellow is best for seeing the majestic loops hovering in the sun's atmosphere.
To scientists, SDO provides unprecedented information on the star we live with; to the rest of us, it provides breathtaking images. Solarium makes viewers stop and stare, instantly transported from where they had been moments earlier.
For b-roll of SDO footage, please see related media at the bottom of this page.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 220.127.116.11.0