NASA Enters World of 4K Video

  • Released Sunday, November 1, 2015

The solar system? Big. The galaxy? Bigger. What's bigger than that? Before you smugly suggest "The universe?", check this out: 4K Videos from NASA!

A little more than a decade ago, television transformed from the boxy, standard definition dimensions of 20th century engineers to the wider and sharper images of high definition TV. Well into the 21st century now, rapid growth in the next generation of video images promises to deliver spectacular pictures with profoundly greater fidelity and resolution than even the best HDTV. Officially known as Ultra-High Definition Television, it has rapidly come to be known as "4K", a moniker derived from the approximate width of images measured in pixels horizontally across a screen.

NASA has a long legacy pushing the boundaries of advanced media technologies, befitting its unique role in presenting important, state-of-the-art science and engineering stories to the American public. On this web page you'll find the first major release of 4K video content, presented in the public domain. The release of these media are concurrent with the launch of a new, non-commercial Ultra-High Definition channel in partnership with Harmonic.

For each of the following items on this website you may preview the program in your browser or you may select one of several different resolutions from the "download" button in the lower right hand corner of each. Be advised that the 4K videos will require fast internet connections and substantial storage space.


When we feel The Earth beneath our feet, see it with our eyes, hear it when the wind blows, we perceive only the most obvious filaments of a far more complex place. Only with exquisite machines--spacecraft in orbit and powerful computers on the ground--can humanity begin to uncover the elegant nature of our complex home.

Presented here are a collection of data visualizations based on observations gathered by a fleet of spacecraft. In various depictions we see the currents of the world's oceans, changes in temperature and land cover over time, and precipitation as it cycles energy and water around our living planet.

But The Earth is only one part of a dynamic sphere, and with its companion The Moon nearby, we cannot hlep but remeber that our whole planet travels in a wider ocean. This video presents Earth's Moon with data gathered by the remarkable Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, an advanced probe designed to map our planetary companion in unprecedented detail.

Finally, our place in space would be cold and lifeless if it were not for our omnipresent star, The Sun. Shining ceaselessly in the void, it bathes our home planet in life giving energy, and holds The Earth, The Moon, and everything else in the solar system in its gravitational thrall.

The data used in the creation of this video come from a wide range of spacecraft, all part of NASA's broader Science Mission Directorate.

Credit: Michael Starobin, Producer
All data visualizations provided by the Scientific Visualization Studio


The sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on February 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the sun's atmosphere, the corona.

SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. Different temperatures can, in turn, show specific structures on the sun such as solar flares, which are gigantic explosions of light and x-rays, or coronal loops, which are stream of solar material travelling up and down looping magnetic field lines.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on the sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too. Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. built, operates, and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

All tracks are written and produced by Lars Leonhard.

Credit: The SDO Team, Genna Duberstein and Scott Wiessinger, Producers


Perhaps more than all other federal agencies, NASA tells stories about big things: big places, big data, big ideas. Using extraordinarily high resolution data sets from some of the most innovative and powerful scientific instruments ever built, the media team at NASA Goddard presents PURSUIT OF LIGHT. The presentation showcases top level goals of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, with an eye toward capturing the imagination of mainstream audiences. Data visualizations at resolutions far greater than HDTV present NASA's science goals like never before. Interspersed with inventive live action footage also designed to make use of that vast canvas, this six and a half minute presentation captivates and moves viewers.

PURSUIT OF LIGHT was designed expressly for a screen technology called The Hyperwall, a system largely perfected at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The Hyperwall itself is a platform best suited for big themes. With colossal screen resolution and an ultrawide presentational style, moving images played there take on a vast sense of scale and power. PURSUIT OF LIGHT employs the strength of this remarkable system and pushes it further than ever before, presenting stories about the Earth, The Moon, The Sun, The Planets, and the deep sky, wrapped in poetic implication about the humanity's imperative need to explore. This show will play prominently on touring Hyperwalls around the country as well as on the web.

Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC): Lead Animator
Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC): Animator
Alex Kekesi (GST): Animator
Ernie Wright (USRA): Animator
Lori Perkins (NASA/GSFC): Animator
Tom Bridgman (GST): Animator
Victoria Weeks (HTSI): Video Editor, Videographer
Michael Starobin (HTSI): Producer, Videographer, Writer


Bennu's Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood - the early solar system. Bennu's Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.

The animation was produced in an 8 x 3 aspect ratio at a resolution of 5760 x 2160 and is available in its full resolution, 4K Ultra HD, 1080HD and 720HD versions in letterboxed format.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
Walt Feimer (HTSI): Lead Animator, Producer, Writer
Michael Lentz (USRA): Lead Animator, Video Editor, Writer
Chris Meaney (HTSI): Animator
Rich Melnick (HTSI): Video Editor
Jason Charles Miller: Narration
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer, Writer
Dante Lauretta (University of Arizona): Scientist
Edward Beshore (University of Arizona): Scientist
Aaron E Lepsch (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Project Support
Michael Starobin (HTSI): Writer
Steven Archer: Music Composer


In the summer of 2015 a NASA-funded team of researchers camped out on the ablation zone--or melt zone--of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Their goal: to conduct a bold and coordinated set of measurements that should help us better understand how meltwater is transported from the ice sheet and into the sea, and ultimately how much that process will affect sea level rise. Larry Smith from UCLA led a team of hydrologists who conducted 72 straight hours of measurements across a river of meltwater, just upstream from where that river plunged into a moulin, or hole in the ice. Smith and Berkeley researcher Vena Chu also placed drifting science beacons in three tributaries of that river to monitor the water as it moved downstream. A few hours after their deployment all three beacons driften by camp, having accomplished their mission. This footage chronicles the flight from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland by helicopter en route to the main camp, as well as the deployment of the drifting beacons.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

Release date

This page was originally published on Sunday, November 1, 2015.
This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 12:19 AM EST.


This visualization is related to the following missions: