Photon Jump

  • Released Friday, March 3, 2017

Pho, a plucky bright green photon of light, must travel from a NASA spacecraft down to Earth and back again to help complete a crucial science mission in this educational short film. The animation was created and produced by media art students from the Savannah College of Art in Design (SCAD) in Georgia, in collaboration with NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission. Their goal was to communicate the science and engineering of the mission, slated for launch in 2018.

ICESat-2, managed by NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland, will measure the height of a changing Earth, one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second. ICESat-2 will carry a photon-counting laser altimeter that will allow scientists to measure the elevation of ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and more - all in unprecedented detail. The workings of this laser helped inspire students to create the character of Pho and plot his adventure.

Our planet's frozen and icy areas, called the cryosphere, are a key focus of NASA's Earth science research. ICESat-2 will help scientists investigate why, and how much, our cryosphere is changing in a warming climate. The satellite will also measure heights across Earth's temperate and tropical regions, and take stock of the vegetation in forests worldwide. For more about the mission, visit

A fully animated film starring Pho the photon.

Complete transcript available.

“Photon Jump” was created and produced through the ICESat-2/Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Collaborative Student Project.

Director/Supervising Professor: Deborah Fowler, SCAD

SCAD Students: Taylor Aseere, Will Cavanagh, Yinghao Chai, Nitin Garg, Eileen Heilsnis, Jinguang Huang, Xiong Lin, Ziye Liu, Adriana Manrique, Kristina Ness, Phuong Ong, Zimei Song, James Spadafora, Maria Venegas, Veronica Zak

Original Music and Sound Design: John Harton, Richard Adams (SCAD)

For More Information


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Friday, March 3, 2017.
This page was last updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 12:20 AM EST.


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