Science on a Sphere


Imagine gazing upon Earth as you are suspended in orbit 22,000 miles above its surface. You can watch a hurricane form, as a small storm slowly gathers strength, traveling westward from Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean, toward the Gulf of Mexico. You can see the colorful infrared images of cloud tops meet, join, grow, collapse and disperse. The prevailing westerly winds and the easterly trade winds materialize before your eyes. You can see the Earth's scorching desert expanses in contrast to the below-zero temperature of cloud tops. Our dynamic atmosphere roils as you watch with the help of infrared satellite imagery projected onto a movie screen-like, white sphere. Called "Science On A Sphere", this spectacular vision of our Earth is the brainchild of Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Forecast Systems Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. Four projectors cast rotating images onto a sphere, approximately six feet in diameter to create the effect of Earth in space.

Because the images originate from data collected by satellites, researchers refer to the projected images as "data sets". The possible data sets that can be projected using Science On A Sphere seem limited only by imagination. Already, there are data sets where you can see the dry, brown deserts of Australia, Asia, Africa as well as both North and South America in contrast to the adjacent verdant plains and forests. You can trace Earth's continuous plates from ocean depths to mountain chains. You can watch dust blow across the surface of Mars. You can observe our Sun erupting in violent solar storms sending streams of deadly particles Earthward.

Imagine future data sets where you can see Pangaea, the super-continent that included all the landmasses of Earth, breaking up and carried by Earth's crustal plates to form the continents that we recognize today. Imagine data sets where you can see the climate of the past and present. And then…be able to project into the future, what the climate would be like. Imagine...we could plan for the future. Imagine… the many possibilities.

Science On A Sphere provides a dramatic visualization of complex information in an understandable form for the public; a unique instrument for teaching students science, math, and geography; and a handy scientific tool to translate numerical information into visual images. Science On A Sphere! A spectacular look at our world and at the universe....

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