Science On a Sphere Gallery

Content for NOAA's Science on a Sphere and related spherical display platforms.

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Science on a Sphere Features

  • Science On a Sphere: Evolution of the Moon
    2011.10.12
    NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter present to you a short, narrated Science On a Sphere show depicting the evolution of our moon—all the way from when it was just a ball of magma orbiting the Earth. See the large impacts that formed the basins of the moon, watch as lava seeps out and cools to form the dark-colored maria, and observe how thousands of crater impacts made the moon look like it does today!
  • FOOTPRINTS
    2010.06.10
    NASA's home for spherical films on Magic Planet. Download the Magic Planet-ready movie file here.

    The Earth is not flat.

    That's the conceptual spark for the astounding movie created at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Using an advanced media projection technology called Science On a Sphere developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), FOOTPRINTS is the first fully produced film of its kind. The movie presents advanced satellite data and other visual effects on a dramatic spherical screen, affording viewers a chance to experience planets and planetary science in a way that's more natural to their actual appearance. The Earth guest stars in a variety of guises, from depictions of the biosphere to planetary views of city lights at night to dramatic examinations about the science of hurricane formation. Other moons and planets make exciting cameos too, with special presentations of Mars and Earth's moon.

    Media and visualization experts at NASA began working with the NOAA technology in the fall of 2005. Until that time, Science On a Sphere had already established an impressive reputation for depiction of planetary data in a dramatic way. But FOOTPRINTS marks the first time that a thorough set of techniques and artistic rules have been applied in the service of a full featured production presented on a spherical screen.

    But more than just a showcase for discrete data sets, the 16 minute film provides a conceptual framework about the human drive to explore. By contextualizing data with compelling language, inventive pictures, and dramatic sound, FOOTPRINTS seeks to engage and enthuse audiences who may not understand the practicalities and majesty of NASA's and NOAA's observations, and may not otherwise have any contact with what these two science agencies actually do.

    As a presentation tool, Science On a Sphere is relatively new. NOAA invented and developed its core hardware and software within the past few years. According to Dr. Alexander MacDonald, the NOAA scientist located at the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, who originally conceived of it, Science On a Sphere is intended to present global science as it should be presented and to stimulate students to learn more about the Earth's environment and the solar system.

    In the past few years Science On a Sphere systems have begun to be installed in museums and science centers around the world. Scientists and administrators at NASA Goddard saw potential to use the Sphere as both a teaching and an outreach tool and with NOAA's support decided to bring one to the campus. It's currently installed at the Goddard Visitor Center.

    For several years there has been a slowly growing list of planetary data sets that can play on Spheres located in museums and institutions around the country. NASA and NOAA intend to dramatically augment that collection with new images and data. But FOOTPRINTS changes the playing field. With the release of this film, the Goddard team dramatically catapults forward the capabilities of the system, taking it far beyond its initial limits of merely depicting planetary data sets. Beyond encompassing state of the art data visualizations, the production team developed new ways for working with computer generated illustrations and animation, high definition video, graphics, text, and more. In a little more than three and a half months, the core group developed a palette of new technical processes and aesthetic guidelines for presenting media on the Sphere.

    The movie asks audiences to consider the idea that what they know is only a function of what questions they're willing to ask. It's an intellectual and creative backdrop to the overall production, and also a philosophical backdrop to the excitement about the vital work that NASA and NOAA do in service of the public interest.

  • RETURN TO THE MOON
    2010.06.10
    NASA's home for spherical films on Magic Planet. Download the Magic Planet-ready movie file here.

    The silvery disc of inspiration for countless philosophers and lovers also happens to be one of the great destinations in the annals of exploration. Earth's moon shines like a beacon, beckoning scientists and the simply curious. But it's been a long time since anyone has visited, and even the most basic signals from unmanned probes have been few and far between.

    Unfold your maps.

    With the advent of the NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), humanity makes a return to the moon like a herald announcing a new age. To commemorate the mission and champion the value of future planned lunar expeditions, the Space Agency created a new short film called RETURN TO THE MOON. Designed expressly for the Science On a Sphere platform, a striking spherical projection system now playing in theaters around the world, RETURN TO THE MOON shows off our silver sibling like a jewel of the night.

    Starting with a brief historical look back at the legacy of human achievement in lunar exploration, the movie presses audiences to take stock in their own relationship to the moon. Then it takes them on a journey. Travelling along with the LRO spacecraft, viewers will discover some of the essential scientific subjects that scientists plan to study. They'll follow LRO as it makes orbits around the moon, gathering data about the surface and what may lie beneath. And then, in a dramatic demonstration of a daring part of the mission, moviegoers will witness the inventive and powerful moment when NASA engineers intentionally crash a research probe into the surface of the moon to dig beneath the top layer. The space agency calls that impact probe LCROSS, and as both a research tool and a cinematic experience, it promises to deliver something exciting.

    RETURN TO THE MOON was produced by the media team at the Goddard Space Flight Center. One of NASA's premiere media teams, this group not only delivers state of the art data visualizations of ongoing research, but also helped write the book on spherical filmmaking. At its time of release, RETURN TO THE MOON was the third fully produced spherical movie from Goddard, and an exciting departure in terms of how these kind of products fuse dramatic presentational style with robust science.

  • LARGEST: A Spherical Movie About Jupiter
    2009.09.04
    NASA's home for spherical films on Magic Planet. Download the Magic Planet-ready movie file here. Three hundred and eighty million miles from Earth, the solar system's largest planet spins like a sizzling top in the night, massive and powerful beyond all comparison short of the sun itself. It's therefore only fitting—and certainly about time—that the fifth planet receive its proper cinematic due, set naturally on the most appropriate cinematic platform. With the movie LARGEST, Jupiter comes to Science On a Sphere. LARGEST examines the gas giant like a work of art, like a destination of celestial wonder. Starting with the basics, the movie examines the gross anatomy of the immense planet. From swirling winds to astounding rotational velocity to unimaginable size, Jupiter demands nothing less than a list of superlatives. But where general description sets the stage, LARGEST parts the curtains on humanity's experience with the fifth planet. The movie takes us on a journey to this immense sphere via dramatic fly-bys with some of the most astounding robotic probes ever designed. Then, with NASA instruments trained on the striped behemoth, the drama really begins. NASA released LARGEST on September 15, 2009. It is one in a series of spherical movies created entirely by staff at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. But while the process to create a fully spherical movie is something of an in-house Goddard creation, the Science On a Sphere projection system itself is an invention of the space agency's sibling NOAA. This film has been prepared exclusively for playback on spherical projections systems. It will not play properly on a traditional computer or television screen. If you are interested in downloading the complete final movie file for spherical playback, please visit ftp://public.sos.noaa.gov/extras/. For more information about the movie itself, visit the main website at www.nasa.gov/largest.
  • Science On a Sphere: A Global Tour of Precipitation from NASA
    2016.05.16
    Precipitation (falling rain and snow) is our fresh water reservoir in the sky and is fundamental to life on Earth. A Global Tour of Precipitation from NASA shows how rain and snowfall moves around the world from the vantage of space using measurements from the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, or GPM. This is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and offers the most detailed and worldwide view of rain and snowfall ever created.

    This narrated movie is created for Science On a Sphere, a platform designed by NOAA that displays movies on a spherical screen. Audiences can view the movie from any side of the sphere and can see any part of Earth. During this show viewers will be guided through a variety of precipitation patterns and display features such as the persistent band of the heaviest rainfall around the equator and tight swirls of tropical storms in the Northern Hemisphere. At subtropical latitudes in both hemispheres there are persistent dry areas and this is where most of the major deserts reside. Sea surface temperature and winds are also shown to highlight the interconnectedness of the Earth system. The movie concludes with near real-time global precipitation data from GPM, which is provided to Science On a Sphere roughly six hours after the observation. To download this movie formatted for a spherical screen, visit NOAA's official Science On a Sphere website below: ‌• A Global Tour of Precipitation from NASA ‌• Near Real-Time Global Precipitation Data

  • WATER FALLS — A Science On a Sphere Movie
    2013.08.06
    The Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM) is a massive, multinational mission utilizing a fleet of spacecraft, sophisticated ground based data processing systems, and years of planning. To capture the essence of this immense undertaking and introduce it to broad audiences, NASA's GPM project office decided to do something out of the box. WATER FALLS is the result. Designed specifically for spherical screens, WATER FALLS abstracts the complex mechanics of the GPM mission, and explores the diversity of phenomena inherent to the water cycle. Presented in sensual, evocative, even surprising ways, WATER FALLS offers vital information about GPM's profound importance to everyone who lives on Earth.
  • FROZEN: The Full Story
    2015.06.25
    On March 27, 2009, NASA released FROZEN, a twelve-minute show about the Earth's frozen regions designed for Science On a Sphere. Science On a Sphere was created by NOAA and displays movies on a spherical screen, which is ideal for a show about the Earth or the planets. The audience can view the show from any side of the sphere and can see any part of the Earth. Making a movie for this system is challenging, and FROZEN was an exciting project to create. Until now, only the "trailer" for FROZEN has been available for viewing from our site. Here, for the first time, is an on-line version of the complete show, presented in several different formats that show different aspects of the movie.
  • FROZEN: A Spherical Movie About the Cryosphere
    2009.03.12
    NASA's home for spherical films on Magic Planet. Download the Magic Planet-ready movie file here.

    Released on March 27, 2009, FROZEN is NASA's second major production for the Science On a Sphere platform, a novel cinema-in-the-round technology developed by the Space Agency's sibling NOAA. Viewers see the Earth suspended in darkness as if it were floating in space. Moving across the planet's face, viewers see the undulating wisps of clouds, the ephemeral sweep of fallen snow, the churning crash of shifting ice, and more.

    FROZEN brings the Earth alive. Turning in space, the sphere becomes a portal onto a virtual planet, complete with churning, swirling depictions of huge natural forces moving below. FROZEN features the global cryosphere, those places on Earth where the temperature doesn't generally rise above water's freezing point. As one of the most directly observable climate gauges, the changing cryosphere serves as a proxy for larger themes.

    But just as thrilling as this unusual—and unusually realistic—look at the planet's structure and behavior is the sheer fun and fascination of looking at a spherically shaped movie. FROZEN bends the rules of cinema, revealing new ways to tell exciting, valuable stories of all kinds. The movie may be FROZEN, but the experience itself rockets along.

  • El Niño: Disrupting the Marine Food Web
    2015.10.13
    This gallery was created for Earth Science Week 2015 and beyond. It includes a quick start guide for educators and first-hand stories (blogs) for learners of all ages by NASA visualizers, scientists and educators. We hope that your understanding and use of NASA's visualizations will only increase as your appreciation grows for the beauty of the science they portray, and the communicative power they hold. Read all the blogs and find educational resources for all ages at: the Earth Science Week 2015 page.

    In case you haven’t heard, El Niño is starting to make headlines this year. Often nicknamed "the bad boy of weather," who is this guy?

    A long time ago, fishermen off the west coast of South America — one of the world's most productive fisheries — noticed that some years the fish disappeared. This was especially noticeable around Christmas time — giving it the name El Niño, which means Christ child in Spanish. Today we know why El Niño happens — but knowing when it will happen is still a challenge.

    Normally, winds blow from east to west along the equator, pushing surface water westward. As the water moves away from the east, nutrient-rich deeper ocean water rises to fill the void (called upwelling.) When nutrients rise into sunlight, they cause blooms of tiny plants called phytoplankton. These plants feed the entire marine food web from small fish such as sardines to bigger fish, sea birds, and marine mammals.

    When an El Niño develops, the normal east-to-west winds die and warm surface water from the west Pacific moves eastward. This stops the upwelling in the east. Without the supply of deeper, nutrient-rich water, less phytoplankton bloom and the fisheries collapse. From satellites in space we see how these changes impact the ocean’s color. Normally, the ocean looks more green along the equator (image below, left.) During El Niño, the ocean looks more blue and less green because there is less plant life (images below, right.) While this color change is subtle to our eyes, it means life or death for the species that depend upon plankton for food. Some animals starve (e.g. sea lions, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins) while others move away to look for food elsewhere.

    In addition to disrupting the marine food web and reducing the fish catch in the Pacific, El Niño is linked to unusual weather around the world: more typhoons in the Pacific, fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, more rain in California, less rain in Southeast Asia and Australia, and warmer weather in South America.

    The monstrous 1997/98 El Niño led to extreme events with catastrophic consequences. There were floods and landslides in some places and extreme drought in others. This is how El Niño got his reputation as a "bad boy." We still can’t predict El Niño more than a few months in advance and won't know its full strength until it peaks around December, but this year’s El Niño is shaping up to be a bully.

    As a scientist, I've been studying the interaction of physical oceanography and biology over long time scales (decades and more.) I also create a series of short visualizations called ClimateBits that play on Science On a Sphere displays at museums and science centers. Here's one I made about El Niño using chlorophyll images (from the MODIS sensor onboard the Aqua satellite) and sea-surface temperatures (from NOAA AVHRR and NASA AMSR-E satellites and oceanic buoy measurements.)

    To give background on motion in the ocean that is key to this story, I start the piece with one of my favorite visualizations by the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio showing output from an ocean circulation model color coded with sea surface temperatures.

    To see it on YouTube and for more information about El Niño and other Earth science concepts, visit: http://climatebits.org.

    -- Stephanie Schollaert Uz, PhD, NASA GSFC, Earth Sciences Division, Ocean Ecology Lab

Science on a Sphere Visualizations

  • Impact of Climate Change on Global Wheat Yields
    2021.09.01
    Climate change will affect agricultural production worldwide. Average global crop yields for maize, or corn, may see a decrease of 24% by late century, if current climate change trends continue. Wheat, in contrast, may see an uptick in crop yields by about 17%. The change in yields is due to the projected increases in temperature, shifts in rainfall patterns and elevated surface carbon dioxide concentrations due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, making it more difficult to grow maize in the tropics and expanding wheat’s growing range. Wheat, which grows best in temperate climates, may see a broader area where it can be grown in places such as the northern United States and Canada, North China Plains, Central Asia, southern Australia and East Africa as temperatures rise, but these gains may level off mid-century. Temperature alone is not the only factor the models consider when simulating future crop yields. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have a positive effect on photosynthesis and water retention, more so for wheat than maize, which are accounted for better in the new generation of models. Rising global temperatures are linked with changes in rainfall patterns and the frequency and duration of heat waves and droughts. They also affect the length of growing seasons and accelerate crop maturity. To arrive at their projections, the research team used two sets of models. First, they used climate model simulations from the international Climate Model Intercomparison Project-Phase 6 (CMIP6). Each of the five climate models runs its own unique response of Earth’s atmosphere to greenhouse gas emission scenarios through 2100. Then the research team used the climate model simulations as inputs for 12 state-of-the-art global crop models that are part of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison Project (AgMIP), creating in total about 240 global climate-crop model simulations for each crop. By using multiple climate and crop models in various combinations, the researchers were able to be more confident in their results.
    Science on a Sphere Content The following section contains assets designed for Science on a Sphere and related displays. SOS playlist file: playlist.sos SOS label file: labels.txt
  • Impact of Climate Change on Global Maize Yields
    2021.08.23
    Climate change will affect agricultural production worldwide. Average global crop yields for maize, or corn, may see a decrease of 24% by late century, if current climate change trends continue. Wheat, in contrast, may see an uptick in crop yields by about 17%. The change in yields is due to the projected increases in temperature, shifts in rainfall patterns and elevated surface carbon dioxide concentrations due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, making it more difficult to grow maize in the tropics and expanding wheat’s growing range. Maize is grown all over the world, and large quantities are produced in countries nearer the equator. North and Central America, West Africa, Central Asia, Brazil and China will potentially see their maize yields decline in the coming years and beyond as average temperatures rise across these breadbasket regions, putting more stress on the plants. Temperature alone is not the only factor the models consider when simulating future crop yields. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have a positive effect on photosynthesis and water retention, more so for wheat than maize, which are accounted for better in the new generation of models. Rising global temperatures are linked with changes in rainfall patterns and the frequency and duration of heat waves and droughts. They also affect the length of growing seasons and accelerate crop maturity. To arrive at their projections, the research team used two sets of models. First, they used climate model simulations from the international Climate Model Intercomparison Project-Phase 6 (CMIP6). Each of the five climate models runs its own unique response of Earth’s atmosphere to greenhouse gas emission scenarios through 2100. Then the research team used the climate model simulations as inputs for 12 state-of-the-art global crop models that are part of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison Project (AgMIP), creating in total about 240 global climate-crop model simulations for each crop. By using multiple climate and crop models in various combinations, the researchers were able to be more confident in their results.
    Science On a Sphere Content The following section contains assets designed for Science On a Sphere and related displays. SOS playlist file: playlist.sos SOS label file: labels.txt
  • Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2020
    2021.01.14
    2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA. Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, the year’s globally averaged temperature was 1.84 degrees Fahrenheit (1.02 degrees Celsius) warmer than the baseline 1951-1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. 2020 edged out 2016 by a very small amount, within the margin of error of the analysis, making the years effectively tied for the warmest year on record. “The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important – the important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.” A Warming, Changing World Tracking global temperature trends provides a critical indicator of the impact of human activities – specifically, greenhouse gas emissions – on our planet. Earth's average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. Rising temperatures are causing phenomena such as loss of sea ice and ice sheet mass, sea level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, and shifts in plant and animal habitats. Understanding such long-term climate trends is essential for the safety and quality of human life, allowing humans to adapt to the changing environment in ways such as planting different crops, managing our water resources and preparing for extreme weather events. Land, Sea, Air and Space NASA’s analysis incorporates surface temperature measurements from more than 26,000 weather stations and thousands of ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions if not taken into account. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980. NASA measures Earth's vital signs from land, air, and space with a fleet of satellites, as well as airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. The satellite surface temperature record from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite confirms the GISTEMP results of the past seven years being the warmest on record. Satellite measurements of air temperature, sea surface temperature, and sea levels, as well as other space-based observations, also reflect a warming, changing world. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet. NASA’s full surface temperature data set – and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation – are available at: https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York. For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/earth
  • 2019 Total Solar Eclipse
    2019.04.30
    (Ver esto en español.) On Tuesday, July 2, 2019, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, casting its shadow across South America and the southern Pacific Ocean. The Moon's shadow can be divided into areas called the umbra and the penumbra. Within the penumbra, the Sun is only partially blocked, and observers experience a partial eclipse. The much smaller umbra lies at the very center of the shadow cone, and anyone there sees the Moon entirely cover the Sun in a total solar eclipse. In the animation, the umbra is the small black oval. The red streak behind this oval is the path of totality. Anyone within this path will see a total eclipse when the umbra passes over them. The much larger shaded bullseye pattern represents the penumbra. Steps in the shading denote different percentages of Sun coverage (obscuration), at levels of 90%, 75%, 50% and 25%. The images of the Sun show its appearance at a number of locations during the eclipse, each oriented to the local horizon. The numbers in the lower left corner give the latitude and longitude of the center of the umbra as it moves eastward, along with the altitude of the Sun above the horizon at that point. Also shown is the duration of totality: for anyone standing at the center point, this is how long the total solar eclipse will last.

    About Accuracy

    You might think that calculating the circumstances of an eclipse would be, if not easy, then at least precise. If you do the math correctly, you’d expect to get exactly the same answers as everyone else. But the universe is more subtle than that. The Earth is neither smooth nor perfectly spherical, nor does it rotate at a perfectly constant, predictable speed. The Moon isn’t smooth, either, which means that the shadow it casts isn’t a simple circle. And our knowledge of the size of the Sun is uncertain by a factor of about 0.2%, enough to affect the duration of totality by several seconds. Everyone who performs these calculations will make certain choices to simplify the math or to precisely define an imperfectly known number. The choices often depend on the goals and the computing resources of the calculator, and as you'd expect, the results will differ slightly. You can get quite good results with a relatively simple approach, but it sometimes takes an enormous effort to get only slightly better answers. The following table lists some of the constants and data used for this animation.
    Earth radius6378.137 km
    Earth flattening1 / 298.257 (the WGS 84 ellipsoid)
    Moon radius1737.4 km (k = 0.2723993)
    Sun radius696,000 km (959.634 arcsec at 1 AU)
    EphemerisDE 421
    Earth orientationSOFA library iauC2t06a()
    Delta UTC69.184 seconds (TT – TAI + 37 leap seconds)
    ΔT69.368 seconds
    A number of sources explain Bessel’s method of solar eclipse calculation, including chapter 9 of Astronomy on the Personal Computer by Oliver Montenbruck and Thomas Pflager and the eclipses chapter of The Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac. The method was adapted to the routines available in NAIF's SPICE software library. See this SVS page for a larger scale map of the eclipse path over South America that takes into account the lunar limb, Earth elevations, and other details that have been ignored here.
  • Moon Phases for Spherical Displays
    2018.07.31
    The most visible change in the appearance of the Moon is its monthly cycle of phases. Every 29.5 days, the Moon changes from a thin crescent low in the western sky in early evening, to a full disk that rises at sunset and is up all night, back to a thin crescent rising just before sunrise. The Moon's phases are caused by its orbit around the Earth. As the Moon circles us, different parts of it face the Sun. When the side of the Moon facing the Earth is sunlit, we see a full Moon. When the Sun is up on the far side of the Moon, we see a thin crescent, or nothing at all. This animation shows the sunlit and shadowed portions of the Moon over the course of a month. The video can loop continuously. Viewers on all sides of the sphere see a full progression of lunar phases like those visible from Earth. Viewers facing the near side of the Moon will also see Earthshine, light reflected from the Earth that faintly illuminates the night side of the crescent Moon. Amateur astronomers pay particular attention to features near the terminator, the line dividing day and night on the Moon. Long shadows and high contrast near the terminator bring out details in the terrain that are hard to see at other times. The animation uses elevation data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's laser altimeter to recreate this sense of heightened detail near the terminator.
  • Fermi TGF Visualization for Science on a Sphere
    2018.05.18
    Visualization of ten years of Fermi observations of Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs). This version is optimized for display on normal screens, has labels, and dates for each data pass.
  • August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Path for Spherical Displays
    2017.02.15
    On Monday, August 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, casting its shadow across all of North America. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States in 38 years. The Moon's shadow can be divided into areas called the umbra and the penumbra. Within the penumbra, the Sun is only partially blocked, and observers experience a partial eclipse. The much smaller umbra lies at the very center of the shadow cone, and anyone there sees the Moon entirely cover the Sun in a total solar eclipse. In the animation, the umbra is the small black oval. The red streak behind this oval is the path of totality. Anyone within this path will see a total eclipse when the umbra passes over them. The much larger shaded bullseye pattern represents the penumbra. Steps in the shading denote different percentages of Sun coverage (eclipse magnitude), at levels of 90%, 75%, 50% and 25%. The yellow and orange contours map the path of the penumbra. The outermost yellow contour is the edge of the penumbra path. Outside this limit, no part of the Sun is covered by the Moon. The animation covers the four hours from 16:25:40 UTC to 20:25:30 UTC with time steps of 10 seconds between frames.
  • Insolation during the 2017 Eclipse
    2016.05.23
    On an ordinary day, the insolation — the amount of sunlight hitting a given spot on the Earth — is proportional to the sine of the Sun's altitude. When the Sun is 30° above the horizon, the sunlight energy per square meter is half of what it is when the Sun is directly overhead. This relationship is the reason that the tropics are hot and the poles are cold. Combined with day length, it's also the reason for the difference in temperature between the seasons at temperate latitudes. As this animation shows, the Moon's shadow dramatically, if temporarily, affects insolation in the continental United States during the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. The effect is readily apparent to observers in the path of totality. As the umbra passes overhead, the temperature drops by several degrees. The cooled column of air within the shadow cone can even influence cloud formation and the speed and direction of the wind. The insolation map in the animation combines solar altitude with obscuration, the fraction of the Sun's area blocked by the Moon during the eclipse. It ignores a number of other factors, including atmospheric scattering, refraction, and cloud cover, that also play a role in the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground.
  • Garbage Patch Visualization Experiment
    2015.08.10
    We wanted to see if we could visualize the so-called ocean garbage patches. We start with data from floating, scientific buoys that NOAA has been distributing in the oceans for the last 35-year represented here as white dots. Let's speed up time to see where the buoys go... Since new buoys are continually released, it's hard to tell where older buoys move to. Let's clear the map and add the starting locations of all the buoys... Interesting patterns appear all over the place. Lines of buoys are due to ships and planes that released buoys periodically. If we let all of the buoys go at the same time, we can observe buoy migration patterns. The number of buoys decreases because some buoys don't last as long as others. The buoys migrate to 5 known gyres also called ocean garbage patches. We can also see this in a computational model of ocean currents called ECCO-2. We release particles evenly around the world and let the modeled currents carry the particles. The particles from the model also migrate to the garbage patches. Even though the retimed buoys and modeled particles did not react to currents at the same times, the fact that the data tend to accumulate in the same regions show how robust the result is. The dataset used for the ocean buoy visualization is the Global Drifter Database from the GDP Drifter Data Assembly Center, part of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory. The data covered the period February 1979 through September 2013. Although the actual dataset has a wealth of data, including surface temperatures, salinities, etc., only the buoy positions were used in the visualization. This visualization was accepted as one of the "Dailies" at SIGGRAPH 2015.
  • Compositing Elements for Loop
    2011.12.12
    This entry contains compositing layers used for the Science On a Sphere show "Loop."
  • STEREO+SDO: Around the Sun for 81 Days
    2011.10.31
    This is a sequence of 4Kx2K images, cylindrical-equidistant projection, of the Sun that can be mapped to a sphere. The sequence was assembled by combining 304 Ångstrom (extreme ultraviolet wavelength) images from STEREO-A, STEREO-B, and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The series covers the time frame shortly after the STEREO spacecraft moved into a position where they had a complete view of the side of the Sun not visible from the Earth (see Sun 360).

    Technical Details

    The data are sampled in time approximately every three hours. Since each spacecraft is at a slightly different distance from the Sun, the intensity received by each pixel was normalized to correspond to the intensity one astronomical unit from the Sun using the inverse-square law. The flux was also adjusted for the fact that each pixel captures a different fraction of the light due to their different angular size for each spacecraft. The image from each spacecraft is then reprojected using the World Coordinate System (WCS) routines of the SolarSoft library. Masks were made to smooth the transition where datasets overlap. There are a few gaps in the data, especially near the poles of the Sun, that are filled using data from the previous time step.

    Note: This sequence is suitable for animation and visualization purposes but NOT for scientific analysis.

  • Hubble Space Telescope Observes the Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 Collision with Jupiter
    2009.09.25
    From July 16 through July 22, 1994, pieces of an object designated as Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. This is the first collision of two solar system bodies ever to be observed, and the effects of the comet impacts on Jupiter's atmosphere have been simply spectacular and beyond expectations. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 consisted of at least 21 discernable fragments with diameters estimated at up to 2 kilometers.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: These images are for visualization purposes only. They are not suitable for scientific analysis.

  • One Thousand Earths Could Fit Inside Jupiter
    2009.09.21
    This animation illustrates that it would take about 1000 Earths to fill a volume the size of Jupiter.

    This visualization was created in support of the Science On a Sphere film called "LARGEST" which is about Jupiter. The visualziation was choreographed to fit into "LARGEST" as a layer that is intended to be composited with other layers. In this case, mulitple layers are provided to make the it appear as if a sphere were filling up with Earths. These frames are in cylindrical equidistant projection and are intended to be viewed wrapped to a sphere. A sample composite of the layers is provided to show how the shot might be composed from the source layers.

  • Sea Ice over the Arctic and Antarctic designed for Science On a Sphere (SOS) and WMS
    2009.02.05
    Sea ice is frozen seawater floating on the surface of the ocean, typically averaging a few meters in thickness. Some sea ice is semi-permanent, persisting from year to year, and some is seasonal, melting and refreezing from season to season. This animation shows how the seasonal global sea ice has changed from day to day since 2002, when the Aqua satellite was launched. The AMSR-E instrument on the Aqua satellite acquires high resolution measurements of the 89 GHz brightness temperature and sea ice concentration near the poles. This sensor is able to observe the entire polar region every day, even through clouds and snowfall, because it is not very sensitive to atmospheric effects. The false color of the sea ice, derived from the AMSR-E 6.25 km 89 GHz brightness temperature, highlights the fissures or divergence areas in the sea ice cover by warm brightness temperatures (in blue) while cold brightness temperatures, shown in brighter white, represent consolidated sea ice. The sea ice edge identifies areas containing at least 15% ice concentration in the three-day moving average of the AMSR-E 12.5 km sea ice concentration data.

    This sequence shows the daily global sea ice over both the Arctic and Antarctic on a Cartesian grid from June 21, 2002 through December 31, 2008 at a frame rate of four frames per day. On days when data is not available, the prior or following day's data is used. Periods when data was absent for several consecutive days include: 2002/07/29 through 2002/08/08, 2002/09/11 through 2002/09/20, and 2003/10/29 through 2003/11/03.

  • Minimum Sea Ice Comparison: 2005, 2007 and the 1979-2007 Average for Science On a Sphere (SOS)
    2008.11.05
    Sea ice is frozen seawater floating on the surface of the ocean. Some sea ice is semi-permanent, persisting from year to year, and some is seasonal, melting and refreezing from season to season. The sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent at the end of each summer and the remaining ice is called the perennial ice cover. The 2007 Arctic summer sea ice reached the lowest extent of perennial ice cover on record - nearly 25% less than the previous low set in 2005. The area of the perennial ice has been steadily decreasing since the satellite record began in 1979, at a rate of about 10% per decade. But the 2007 minimum, reached on September 14, is far below the previous record made in 2005 and is about 38% lower than the climatological average. Such a dramatic loss has implications for ecology, climate and industry. A full global version of this animation was developed for a Science On a Sphere exhibit. The animation is shown on a plane with a geographic (lat/lon) projection, but has been rotated 90 degrees so that the Arctic is in the center of the image. The animation compares the difference between the perennial sea ice minimum extent on September 21, 2005 and September 14, 2007. Both years are compared with the 1979-2007 average minimum sea ice.
  • Global Glacier Locations designed for Science On a Sphere (SOS) and WMS
    2008.08.13
    This animation shows the locations of glaciers worldwide as semi-transparent markers that shrink over a time. Location data for the glaciers was collected from a wide variety of databases including the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space (GLIMS) Glacier Database, the World Glacier Inventory, the West Greenland Glacier Inventory, the Antarctic Names Database, the Atlas of Canada and the Antarctic Digital database. In total, over 174,000 glaciers were identified. This set of glaciers was thinned spatially to retain only glaciers that were at least 1/4 degree away from other glacier locations in order to remove points that appeared coincident given the size of the location markers and the resolution of the images generated.

    Here, markers represent random locations where glaciers are found. Markers are stretched as required in latitude so that all markers appear circular when projected on the sphere. The markers begin as large and semi-transparent buttons, and change color, size and opacity over a period of 12 frames.

  • Seasonal Landcover for Science On a Sphere
    2008.01.07
    The Blue Marble Next Generation (BMNG) data set provides a monthly global cloud-free true-color picture of the Earth's land cover at a 500-meter spatial resolution. This series of images fades from month to month showing seasonal variations such as snowfall, spring greening and droughts in a seamless fashion. The data set,derived from monthly data collected in 2004, is shown on a flat cartesian grid. The ocean color is derived from applying a depth shading to the bathymetry data. Where available, the Antarctica coverage shown is the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA).
  • Sea Ice over the Arctic and Antarctic designed for Science On a Sphere (SOS) and WMS
    2008.01.06
    Sea ice is frozen seawater floating on the surface of the ocean, typically averaging a few meters in thickness. Some sea ice is semi-permanent, persisting from year to year, and some is seasonal, melting and refreezing from season to season. This animation shows how the seasonal global sea ice has changed from day to day in both the northern and southern hemisphere since 2002, when the Aqua satellite was launched.

    This series shows the daily global sea ice over both the Arctic and Antarctic from June 21, 2002 through September 22, 2008. Global data from the AMSR-E instrument on the Aqua satellite is shown on a Cartesian grid. The sea ice extent is derived from the daily AMSR-E 12.5 km sea ice concentration where the ice concentration is above 15%.

  • 2005 Sea Ice over the Arctic and Antarctic derived from AMSR-E (WMS and Science On a Sphere)
    2008.01.06
    Sea ice is frozen seawater floating on the surface of the ocean, typically averaging a few meters in thickness. Some sea ice is semi-permanent, persisting from year to year, and some is seasonal, melting and refreezing from season to season. This series shows the global sea ice throughout 2005, when the maximum extent occurred on March 7th and the minimum extent occurred on September 21st. Here global data from the AMSR-E instrument on the Aqua satellite is shown on a Cartesian grid. The false color in these images is derived from the daily AMSR-E 6.25 km 89 GHz brightness temperature while the sea ice extent is derived from the daily AMSR-E 12.5 km sea ice concentration.
  • Components of the Water Cycle on a Flat Map for Science On a Sphere
    2011.06.13
    Water regulates climate, predominately storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. Water in the ocean and atmosphere carry heat from the tropics to the poles. The process by which water moves around the earth, from the ocean, to the atmosphere, to the land and back to the ocean is called the water cycle. The animations below each portray a component of the water cycle.

    These animations of the components of the water cycle were created for the Science On a Sphere production "Loop" using data from the GEOS-5 atmospheric model on the cubed-sphere, run at 14-km global resolution for 25-days. Variables animated here include hourly clouds, precipitation, evaporation and water vapor. For more information on GEOS-5 see https://gmao.gsfc.nasa.gov/systems/geos5.

    Some of these visualizations are an orthographic view of the data used in Components of the Water Cycle.

  • Water Falls (Science On a Sphere show): Hurricane Sandy
    2013.09.02
    Hurricane Sandy segment for the GPM Science On a Sphere (SOS) show titled "Water Falls". The hurricane visualization is generated from GEOS-5 model output spanning October 26, 2012 to November 2, 2012 and repeated on the globe three times.
  • Thermohaline Circulation on a Flat Map
    2011.12.09
    The oceans are mostly composed of warm salty water near the surface over cold, less salty water in the ocean depths. These two regions don't mix except in certain special areas. The ocean currents, the movement of the ocean in the surface layer, are driven primarily by the wind. In certain areas near the polar oceans, the colder surface water also gets saltier due to evaporation or sea ice formation. In these regions, the surface water becomes dense enough to sink to the ocean depths. This pumping of surface water into the deep ocean forces the deep water to move horizontally until it can find an area on the world where it can rise back to the surface and close the current loop. This usually occurs in the equatorial ocean, mostly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This very large, slow current is called the thermohaline circulation because it is caused by temperature and salinity (haline) variations.

    This animation shows one of the major regions where this pumping occurs, the North Atlantic Ocean around Greenland, Iceland, and the North Sea. The surface ocean current brings new water to this region from the South Atlantic via the Gulf Stream and the water returns to the South Atlantic via the North Atlantic Deep Water current. The continual influx of warm water into the North Atlantic polar ocean keeps the regions around Iceland and southern Greenland generally free of sea ice year round.

    The animation also shows another feature of the global ocean circulation: the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The region around latitude 60 south is the only part of the Earth where the ocean can flow all the way around the world with no obstruction by land. As a result, both the surface and deep waters flow from west to east around Antarctica. This circumpolar motion links the world's oceans and allows the deep water circulation from the Atlantic to rise in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, thereby closing the surface circulation with the northward flow in the Atlantic.

    The flows in this visualization are based on current theories of the thermohaline circulation rather than actual data or computational model runs. The thermohaline circulation is a very slow moving current that can be difficult to distinguish from general ocean circulation. Therefore, it is difficult to measure and simulate.

    This visualization was produced for the Science On a Sphere production "Loop". It is intended to be over-layed on a world map background. Below are 3 sets of 4 sequences. The first set of 4 sequences are all composited over a world map background with a limited number of frames that make them loopable (with a very slight jump at the point where the looping happens). This is primarily provided for real-time displays such as hyperwall systems. The 4 sequences are: all depth layers combined, shallow depths, middle depths, and deep depths.

    The second set is the same as the first set except that the layers are not composited over the background and instead include and alpha channel. The third layer is actually the frames that were used in the film "Loop" and consist of a large number of continuous, seamless frames. Each sequence is as before, all layers, shallow, middle, and deep layers all with alpha channels.

    The depth layers nominally correspond to the following ranges below sea level: shallow (0m - 600m), middle (1875m - 2500m), and deep (3000m - 4000m). These depths do vary with bathymetry. So, in areas where the sea floor is not very deep, these depths are scaled so that the flows do not interesct the sea floor or each other.

  • ECCO2 Sea Surface Temperature and Flows
    2012.02.08
    Generated for Science On a Sphere show "Loop". This animation depicts the part of Earth's ocean circulation model that involves heat transfer.

    In the polar latitudes the ocean loses heat to the atmosphere. Near the equator ocean water warms, and because it is less dense, it remains close to the surface. Cast away from the planet's equator by the winds and Earth's rotation, warm equatorial waters travel on or near the surface of the globe outward toward high latitudes. But as water loses heat to the increasingly cold atmosphere far away from the equator it sinks and pushes other water out of the way. Endlessly, this pump known as Meridional Overturning Circulation, circulates water and heat around the globe. Considering that the ocean stores exponentially more heat than the atmosphere and the fact that they're always in direct contact with each other, there's a strong relationship between oceanic heat and atmospheric circulation.

  • Link between Sea-Ice Fraction and Absorbed Solar Radiation over the Arctic Ocean
    2014.12.17
    While sea ice is mostly white and reflects the sun’s rays, ocean water is dark and absorbs the sun’s energy at a higher rate. A decline in the region’s albedo – its reflectivity, in effect – has been a key concern among scientists since the summer Arctic sea ice cover began shrinking in recent decades. As more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the climate system, it enhances ongoing warming in the region, which is more pronounced than anywhere else on the planet.

    Since the year 2000, the rate of absorbed solar radiation in the Arctic in June, July and August has increased by five percent, said Norman Loeb, of NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. The measurement is made by NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments, which fly on multiple satellites.

    While a five percent increase may not seem like much, consider that the rate globally has remained essentially flat during that same time. No other region on Earth shows a trend of potential long-term change.

    When averaged over the entire Arctic Ocean, the increase in the rate of absorbed solar radiation is about 10 Watts per square meter. This is equivalent to an extra 10-watt light bulb shining continuously over every 10.76 square feet of Arctic Ocean for the entire summer.

    As a region, the Arctic is showing more dramatic signs of climate change than any other spot on the planet. These include a warming of air temperatures at a rate two to three times greater than the rest of the planet and the loss of September sea ice extent at a rate of 13 percent per decade.

    CERES instruments fly on the Terra, Aqua and Suomi-NPP satellites, and one is scheduled to fly on the next orbiter of the Joint Polar Satellite System, a NASA-NOAA effort. The Terra satellite launched Dec. 18, 1999, and CERES first started collecting Arctic data in 2000 so 2015 will mark 15 continuous years of CERES measurements over the Arctic.

    The instruments include three radiometers – one measuring solar radiation reflected by Earth (shortwave), one measuring thermal infrared radiation emitted by Earth (longwave), and one measuring all outgoing radiation, whether emitted or reflected.

    For more information on the project, please visit http://ceres.larc.nasa.gov.