A 24-minute, high-resolution science documentary about the dynamics of the sun that features data-driven visualizations produced by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign debuts tonight at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in Baton Rouge before rolling out to more than a dozen planetariums and science centers around the world.
"Solar Superstorms" was produced as part of a project called CADENS (Centrality of Digitally Enabled Science). Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), CADENS spotlights the new knowledge produced thanks to the massive computing and data analysis capabilities now available to scientists, engineers and scholars.
In addition to NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL), led by Donna Cox, the CADENS team includes Spitz Creative Media, Thomas Lucas Productions and the leaders of the NSF-supported Blue Waters and XSEDE projects that enable thousands of people across the country to carry out computational and data-driven research.
"The 'Solar Superstorms' dome show is a direct result of scientific research whose advance is dependent on extremely powerful computer simulation and visualization," said Rudolf Eigenmann, a program director at NSF. "The resulting representations of the high-resolution, complex numeric simulations convey the beauty, the power and the human relevance of solar storms."
Narrated by acclaimed actor Benedict Cumberbatch, "Solar Superstorms," asks the question, "What can cause our normally benign sun to erupt in such fury that it can threaten the world's power and technological infrastructure?"
To answer that question, this innovative show takes audiences into the inner workings of our star. It follows the path of hot magnetized gas from deep inside the sun, through its tangled journey through the Sun's churning outer layers and on to explosive magnetic eruptions so powerful they can affect the Earth.