Science in the round

Posted by Francis Reddy
on Thursday, December 7, 2006

What do you get when you combine four video projectors, five computers, and a suspended, 6-foot-wide white sphere? An entirely new way to tell visual stories, says Michael Starobin, senior media producer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center outside Baltimore.

Starobin and the Goddard visualization team have produced the first true movie for this new medium. Their 16-minute film Footprints dramatically depicts Earth, the Moon, and the planets as if you’re floating above them. The film was released today to a consortium of museums equipped with the projection system, called Science on a Sphere.

Alexander MacDonald at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Boulder, Colorado, Earth System Research Laboratory conceived of Science on a Sphere as a way to show global science as it should be presented and to engage student learning about Earth’s environment and the solar system. NOAA developed the hardware and software, and, by late 2005, when NASA became involved, the system’s reputation for striking presentations was already well established.

Computers manage the display using four video projectors set 90° apart. You can see it in action here. Imagine floating above the Moon or Mars, orbiting the X-ray Sun, or watching Earth’s continents merge and rift through time. Look for Footprints at these locations: 

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