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Our Presto-Chango Multiwavelength Sun

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

multi-sun_580

Steele Hill, NASA Goddard’s salesman of all things solar, just posted his latest weekly release of imagery, courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Steele creates the still images and video snippets for use in science museums and other public places. Here is his descriptive text for the image and video in this post.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s images of this Sun (Dec. 7, 2011) taken at almost the same time in several wavelengths at different temperatures and layers of the Sun. In addition, we superimposed an illustration of the Sun’s magnetic field lines to the view. We start off looking at the 6,000 degrees C. photosphere that shows the various sunspots on the “surface” of the Sun. Then, we transition into the region between the chromosphere and the corona, at about 1 million degrees C. where, in extreme UV light, the active regions appear lighter. We phase in a composite of three different wavelengths showing temperatures up to 2 million degrees C. To top it off, we overlay a science-based estimation of the complex magnetic field lines (partly made visible in the first UV image) extending from and connecting the active regions before going back to the sunspot image. 
Who says the Sun is boring?



_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




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Helioviewer’s future: an Internet for solar image data

June 17th, 2011 Comments off

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with Helioviewer.org
Post 3 of 5: Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer
Post 4 of 5: How it works: building the Helioviewer “back end” with JPEG2000
Post 5 of 5: Helioviewer’s future: an Internet for solar image data


New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore images captured by solar observing spacecraft. Previous posts explained the origins and aims of the Helioviewer Project, and the basics of a Web-based app called Helioviewer.org. This final post in the series looks at the what’s coming next from the Helioviewer Project.

image of sun surface

So far, solar scientists who have seen the Helioviewer Project’s Web app (Helioviewer.org) and downloadable software (JHelioviewer) are intrigued, says Helioviewer Project co-founder Jack Ireland. “The reaction has been, ‘This is really cool; I’d like to see more.'”

Citizen scientists have begun to play with the tools, too. A growing number of time-lapse solar videos made using Helioviewer are now found on YouTube. Check out this tornado-like  feature on the sun by a non-scientist playing with Helioviewer.org and uploaded to YouTube. (It’s actually electrically charged plasma caught up in twisted magnetic fields.)

“We didn’t find this,” Ireland says. “Some member of the public, some citizen scientist, found this.”

So what’s next? Here are some new things to look for as the Helioviewer Project goes forward.

Access to raw data
Right now, you can view and visualize solar images in Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewerbut do not have direct access to the actual raw instrument data. The JHelioviewer team wants to change that. In future, it should be possible to click a link and download the actual raw data files being visualized, so scientists could work with them locally.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory image files (about 1Mb in size) that Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewer use are highly compressed versions of the raw Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) files, the most commonly used digital file format in astronomy. These FITS files, which astronomers use to do their research, are a whopping 64 Mb in size.

Global data sharing
Right now, all the solar images accessible to Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewer reside on Goddard’s servers. That’s mainly because some amount of pre-processing is required for the images to integrate seamlessly.

But Ireland and  the Helioviewer Project’s co-founders Keith Hughitt and Daniel Müller, hope to see Helioviewer evolve into a more distributed system, able to access multiple archives of solar images residing at different locations in the world.

“What you want is for the databases to talk to each other,” Ireland says. “So when I got to the Goddard database and say, ‘Hey, I want this kind of data,’ it says ‘I don’t have it, but this guy over here has it.’ That’s a distributed system.”

So, repositories in Europe could host images from satellites other than SDO, SOHO, or STEREO, or even archives of images from ground-based observatories. It would be like creating a parallel Internet for solar image data. Another way to look at it is as the equivalent of a live global broadcast on CNN. Different streams of solar images could be viewed and manipulated in Helioviewer.org or JHelioviewer, the way live feeds a network of correspondents around the world is combined in CNN’s studio in Atlanta.

Social annotation
The Helioviewer Project would also like to add “social annotation,” allowing individuals and groups to link comments, labels, and other forms of metadata to solar images. An individual could create, for example, a personal database of features of interest. Or groups of scientists and students could collectively share their annotations.

“The final level,” Hughitt says, “would be that kind of global level where you find something interesting and you want to share it with everyone — you don’t really care who — and that would go to some global feed where anyone could find it.”

Sound familiar? It’s the same concept behind the Google Earth system of layers or “skins” that users create. People share annotations consisting of locations, geographical features, businesses, landmarks, shipwrecks on the ocean floor — whatever — in the form of downloadable .kmz files that can be opened in the Google Earth browser. Ireland and Hughitt imagine similar capabilities coming to Helioviewer.

Make new apps
JHelioviewer is based on an open-source architecture. That means all the information and tools needed to build new functionality in the software — collectively known as its Application Program Interface, or API — are freely available. New functions could come in the form of downloadable mini-programs called plug ins. JHelioviewer was written to make this easy.

“One key thing that has not been used a lot yet, but could become more useful in the future, is that JHelioviewer has its own plug-in architecture,” Hughitt says. “So anybody interested could write their own functions and build them into JHelioviewer.”

Scientists, for example, could write a plug-in to bring data from a ground based solar observatory into JHelioviewer, or search for some pattern or feature of interest. Or imagine a plug-in that allows school kids to run a contest for who can find the most solar flares.

It would also be possible to rig JHelioviewer to browse image data from planets and moons. Now that the basic back-end infrastructure is in place, virtually anything users can dream up is possible.

In a pilot study, Helioviewer Project co-founder Daniel Müller is working with medical doctor Carlos Moro from the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, to create a plug-in for JHelioviewer that will allow doctors to view and annotate high-resolution microscopy samples of human tissue. As a spin-off, this plug-in will also be able to access and browse the vast archive of gigapixel images returned by the HiRISE telescope onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Observatory.

“Who knows what people can create?” Ireland says. “There’s only one way to find out. We have this infrastructure now that can show you the sun using as many different kinds of data as possible. So the next question is, ‘What can we do with all these images?’ Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewer are just two of the possible applications.”




LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




How it works: Building the Helioviewer “back end” with JPEG2000

June 16th, 2011 Comments off

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with Helioviewer.org
Post 3 of 5: Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer
Post 4 of 5: How it works: building the Helioviewer “back end” with JPEG2000


New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore images captured by solar observing spacecraft. Previous posts explained the origins and aims of the Helioviewer Project, and the basics of a Web-based app called Helioviewer.org. This post looks at the behind-the-scenes technology that makes Helioviewer possible.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory captures hi-def images of the sun and beams them down to Earth at a rate of one every few seconds.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory beams data to Earth at a rate of 150 Mb per second.


The Helioviewer.org Web app and the JHelioviewer software are the on-screen interfaces that users see. But there is also a critical data-processing “back end” that required just as much effort to develop. The challenge was this: How do you acquire and manipulate solar images quickly enough so that the process is truly “real time,” without long waiting times for downloads and glacial refresh rates on the image view every time you make a change, like zooming in on a feature of interest?

This is particularly challenging when working with high-resolution images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. SDO sends down images that are 4,000 by 4,000 pixels, approximately the same number of pixels as in a 13 by 13 inch photographic print.

Google Maps and Google Earth overcame this issue by “tiling” large images into a checkerboard of smaller segments that could be quickly assembled into an image at the scale a user requested.

A Google Maps for the sun
The prototype of Helioviewer took this approach, too, following Google’s lead. “Google Maps was the original inspiration for it,” Helioviewer Project co-founder Jack Ireland says.

In the prototype of Helioviewer.org, each stage of a zoom-in required a complete set of tiles. The system retrieved the tiles it needed to build the view requested by the user with every click of the mouse. The trouble is, as you zoom in it requires an ever-increasing number of small tiles (numbering in the hundreds) to build the new image. Each tile is a separate file, and they all have to be labeled, stored, and pulled from storage and assembled when needed.

Then Helioviewer met JPEG2000, a standard for compressing images to make them extremely small while maintaining very good image quality. Also, JPEG2000 can extract sub-regions of the compressed image file without having to open the whole file.

In other words, the system generates only the part of the image you really want to see. If you have ever downloaded or extracted a very large compressed image file, you understand the time saving that JPEG2000 offers.

“One thing that changed early on that made a huge difference and made all this really possible is that we use this JPEG2000 technology,” Helioviewer Project co-founder Keith Hughitt explains. “Instead of generating all the possible tiles for every single image, we wait until the user asks for a tile and generate it right then, and only generate the ones we need. We were able to develop a way to do that quickly enough that you can do it right on the Web page.”

Data pipeline from Palo Alto
Lockheed Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, based  in Palo Alto, California, that built the Atmospheric Imaging Instrument aboard SDO, uses JPEG2000 to compress every third new SDO image (i.e. one every few seconds) and then sends them through a data pipeline to Goddard. The image can be available on Helioviewer’s server at Goddard in as little as 20 minutes.

The system needs to store this one compressed master file, not hundreds of tiles. That one image file — or a portion of it — can be quickly decompressed and displayed at the resolution needed.

For example, as you click the little “plus sign” icon on Helioviewer to zoom in on a flare on the surface of the sun, the back end of the system decompresses the same file multiple times at increasing resolution — like a telephoto lens capturing an image at ever higher magnification — and displays it on your computer screen.

This “on the fly” manipulation also applies to time-lapse videos made with JHelioviewer. “JHelioviewer tells the server which portion of the images it is interested in, and the video-stream is updated in real time so that only those bits are transmitted back to JHelioviewer,” Hughitt explains. “The result is a sort of ‘dynamic’ movie stream that you can create, and then adjust as you are playing it.”

This means that as the video plays, you can zoom, pan, sharpen, brighten, or follow a specific feature across the sun. If you choose to download the video, the server renders the final product at whatever settings you choose.

If not for JPEG2000, you would need to download an entirely new version of the video – amounting to gigabytes of data – every time you made a change.  Another way of saying this is “the Web back in the 1990s.”



LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer

June 15th, 2011 Comments off

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with Helioviewer.org
Post 3 of 5: Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer]

New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore images captured by solar observing spacecraft. Previous posts explained the origins and aims of the Helioviewer Project, and the basics of a Web-based app called Helioviewer.org. This post takes a closer look at a downloadable software application JHelioviewer.

JHViewer_600

The Web app Helioviewer.org allows you to dip your toes into the water of solar image visualization. JHelioviewer, a piece of software you install on your computer, is a dive into the deep end. It gives you powerful additional tools to create vivid images and time-lapse videos.

When you install and start JHelioviewer, it displays a time-lapse video of the most recent 24-hour set of images available from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) at 171 Angstroms. (Read this previous post to learn more about the AIA 171 Angstrom channel on SDO.)

Here are the basic menus along the left of the JHelioviewer desktop. Guidance is also available on the JHelioviewer Wiki Handbook.

SCREEN SHOT OF overview menu areaOverview
In the Overview menu area (top left), use the yellow frame with the little “Bull’s eye” to target the area of the image you want to work with. If you have a thumb wheel on your mouse, use it to expand or contract the size of the frame. Or use the Zoom in and Zoom out buttons on the top navigation bar.

One of the coolest tools in JHelioviewer is Feature tracking. Center the yellow Bull’s eye on a feature and click the Track icon on the top-navigation bar. When you make a time-lapse video, it will hold the targeted feature steady as the rest of the sun moves around it! The software compensates for the rotation of the sun.

This can be especially dramatic if you zoom in close to a feature, like a tangle of magnetic loops, and switch on Track. The feature stays right in the center of the viewer as you watch the magnetic loops dance.

movie-controls_250Movie Controls
With the More Options tab selected, you can adjust the per-second cadence of your video sequence. The higher the rate, the smoother the video.

Also, there are three play modes: play once and stop; loop forward; or play forward and then backward.

screen shot of layer menuLayers
These controls allow you to create sets of solar images to examine, alter, and render into videos. Clicking Add Layer brings up a panel for choosing the start and stop dates, the observatory, the instrument, and the time step between images. The time settings are in UTC (coordinated universal time), which is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). UTC minus 5 hours gives you Eastern Standard Time.

If you, for example, want to make a video of the past day of solar activity, choose a 24-hour start and stop interval. Now you have to choose the Time Step. Once per hour will make a pretty jumpy video.

So, say you pick the other extreme — once per minute. Unfortunately, you can’t do it, because the system limits you to sets of no more than 1000 images at a time, and there are 1,440 minutes in a day. How about every 10 minutes? Set the Time Step to 2 minutes and you will get 144 images to cover the 24-hour period.

screen shot of adjustments menuAdjustments
The video you create initially may already look pretty good. But you can use the Adjustments tools to tweak the look of the video and highlight details. Sharpen compensates for fuzziness. Gamma brightens the image. And Contrast increases the differences between bright and dark areas.

Another cool feature: You can make these changes “on the fly,” as your video continues to play. You can also switch AIA instruments on the fly, and frame rate, too, to get the perfect video.

HEK Events
Turning on this feature adds a layer of labels drawn from the Heliophysics Events Knowledgebase. It labels flares, for example, with a special icon. Clicking on an icon makes a window pop up with detailed technical information about the event.

screen shot of HEK regions

HEK events

Cool stuff in JHelioviewer
You can create multiple layers and adjust the relative contribution of each using the Opacity control. Layers chosen from the same time period will play in synch.

Another cool feature: Notice in the Layers panel how you can watch the minutes, hours, days, etc. progress as the video plays. I made a 1-year video to browse for times of the year when the sun was especially active, then went back to those periods to grab still images.

For example, set the time to October 7, 2010, and make a video of that day. Do you see a big dark circle cross in front of the sun? That was the moon during a lunar transit.

JHelioviewer does not, like the Web app Helioviewer.org, allow you to instantly share your video to YouTube. But you can download it as an mp4 file (File>Export Movie), and post it manually on your blog, YouTube channel, or other sharing sites.

But watch out for the file size! My 1-year video at 12-hour time steps (627 SDO images) came in at a file size of 127 Mb. To generate a smaller output file, make the “frame size” smaller in the Export dialog settings.

Here is the video I made with JHelioviewer of a year in the life of our star, May 2010 to May 2011. You can do it, too.





LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




Getting started with Helioviewer.org

June 14th, 2011 Comments off

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with Helioviewer.org

New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore the growing body of high-definition images of the sun captured by solar observing spacecraft. A previous post explained the origin and aims of the Helioviewer Project. This post takes a closer look at a Web-based tool called Helioviewer.org.


screen shot of helioviewer.org desktop


When you first visit Helioviewer.org, you’ll see an orange ball. That’s the most recent image available of the sun, courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

The Time menu
image of time menuAt the top left of the image window, three drop-down menus allow you to choose the time and date at which you want to observe the sun, including latest, meaning “the most recent available.”

The time is given in UTC: coordinated universal time, also known as GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time. To convert to U.S. Eastern Standard Time, subtract 5 hours from UTC (and so on).

Time-step allows you to browse solar images in steps of 1 second to 1 year.

The Images menu
screen shot of images menuWhen you first visit Helioviewer.org, the Images menu setting will default to the most recent SDO image available from the spacecraft’s Atmospheric Imagining Assembly (AIA) instrument at a wavelength of 304 Angstroms.

Think of it as looking at the sun through a filter that blocks out everything except the wavelengths near 304 Angstroms. The AIA has 10 such “channels. This Wikipedia article about SDO includes a helpful table showing the different channels and what temperature of solar material they correspond to.

To be more specific, the 304 Angstrom view from SDO is the energy emitted by positively charged helium atoms (He+) at around 60,000-80,000 degrees. In SDO images, it is commonly displayed  in a rich orange color.

Click anywhere on the title bar for AIA 304. This expands your viewing options.

The Opacity slider is a fader control, allowing you to display from zero to 100 percent of the image.

Below that, drop-down menus allow you to choose the image source by observatory/spacecraft, instrument, detector, and measurement type.

So, for example, change the measurement type from AIA 304 to AIA 171. At 171 Angstroms, you see magnetic loop structures protruding from the solar surface.

The AIA 171 captures ultraviolet light from processes on the sun occurring at more than a half-million degrees (compared to AIA 304’s 60,000 degrees).

screen shot of images controlsMixing multiple images
The real magic of Helioviewer.org starts when you click Add at the top right of the image menu area. This creates a second (or third, or fourth…) image.

You can use these menus to seamlessly overlay and combine multiple images of the same solar image captured in different wavelengths by SOHO and SDO.

To do it, call up multiple images at different wavelengths and then use the Opacity sliders to meld the images together by altering their relative brightnesses.

The really cool thing is that Helioviewer.org (and JHelioviewer) allow you to visualize a process happening on the sun in different ways (by overlaying images from different instruments). Or you can explore the relationship between different processes happening at different times.

Making time-lapse videos
Click Movie at the top right of the image window to create a time-lapse video of the sun’s surface. The default setting will create a video covering 24 hours, centered on the current observation time.

Alternatively, you can click Settings above the image window to make a video with duration of 3 hours to 1 week.

screen shot of video start buttonUnder normal traffic conditions, it will take a minute or two to generate the video. But as more users call on this service, the wait times increase. In fact, in the days following the June 7 prominence eruption, the demand for video was so great that the Helioviewer Project had to literally erase the queue of requests as they stretched into days.

A pop up window will let you know when the video is ready. You will have the option of either downloading a copy or sharing it to YouTube.

The Recently shared window shows you a video recently uploaded by someone to YouTube,

Other sharing features
The Link and Screenshot features also allow you to share or store images or combinations of images created using Helioviewer.org.

Tomorrow: Explore solar images and video in depth with JHelioviewer.


LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki:

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer

June 13th, 2011 Comments off

New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore images of the sun captured by NASA and ESA solar observing spacecraft. This week, Geeked On Goddard takes a close look at these new tools, explaining how they work and what you can do with them.

Helioviewer.org Web application desktop

The Helioviewer.org desktop

[Post 1 of 5]

Last week on June 7, Goddard solar scientist Jack Ireland woke up around 6 am and checked the website Helioviewer.org to find out what people were looking at on the sun. He saw that 36 minutes earlier, some anonymous person on the Internet had posted a video of an enormous eruption on the sun’s surface.

“I checked it out, and thought it was spectacular and unlike anything I had ever seen before,” Ireland recalls. Ireland sent out an email alerting his colleagues (and Geeked On Goddard) of the event.

Hello All,

Found this event on Helioviewer.org this morning, courtesy of our users. I thought you might be interested in it. The event is still in progress right now.  Quite spectacular.

Cheers,
Jack

[Unfortunately, that anonymous user took down the Helioviewer-made video of the eruption that Ireland’s email originally linked to, so we don’t know who he or she was.]

The solar eruption that wowed the world. . .

The eruption wowed the world. . .

Over the next 24 hours, the dramatic fountaining prominence eruption amazed the world — and showed the power of Helioviewer, which Ireland has played a key role in creating.

If you’ve never heard of Helioviewer, go right now to the helioviewer.org website. That glowing orange-yellow ball you see is the sun as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. You see what the spacecraft sees — as recently as 20 minutes ago. And that’s just the start.

You can change “channels” on the sun, observing its churning surface from different sensors on the spacecraft. You can mix the channels together to create unique new images, revealing features and processes occurring at different temperatures and locations.

The Helioviewer Project’s primary mission is to provide innovative new tools to solar scientists. But aspiring “citizen scientists” are also welcome. For example, a recently added feature allows you to create short time-lapse videos of the sun and then upload them quickly on YouTube — or save a copy for yourself on your computer. (The unknown user who discovered the June 7 prominence used the YouTube uploader to report his finding.)

How it all started
The Helioviewer Project began at Goddard in 2004-2005. It is a partnership of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The effort has produced two complementary tools: the Helioviewer.org website and an installable piece of software called JHelioviewer.

The Helioviewer Project team at Goddard consists of Ireland and computer programmer Keith Hughitt, both based in the Heliophysics Science Division. Summer interns have also contributed at various times.

Ireland conceived of Helioviewer in 2004 and started building a prototype. ESA’s Daniel Müller, the deputy project scientist for the ESA/NASA Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), started working on JHelioviewer  in 2007 while based at Goddard. Hughitt joined them in 2008. Together, they started the Helioviewer Project, which combines the efforts of Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewer, as well as various “back end” programming on the servers that help power the front-end visualization tools that users actually interact with. Müller returned to Europe in 2010, and ESA officially released the JHelioviewer software late that same year.

Seeing like a satellite
Ireland says the motivation for creating both Helioviewer.org and JHelioviewer was to make it easier to access the wealth of scientific data from various satellite sources.

“It occurred to me that we have a lot of different websites that visualize different observations about a single object, the sun,” he says. “Having many disparate websites and browse tools didn’t make too much sense.”

Ireland also just wanted to see the sun as an integrated whole, the way SOHO and SDO see it. He remembers one day watching two different SOHO images of the sun — one with the sun itself filling the monitor, and another showing the solar disk in the middle of its much more extended outer atmosphere.

“But what you actually see and what your physical understanding is that the sun is in the middle of this bigger space. So why couldn’t we see that? I mean, that’s what’s out there. My original motivation was just to try to reproduce on a web site, somehow, everything of what the spacecraft see.”

To do so called for a tool that would superimpose different images on the same space, in perfect alignment. That initial concept became Helioviewer.

The JHViewer desktop.

The JHelioviewer desktop.

Complementary tools
Helioviewer currently draws on image data from SDO as well as more than a million images collected by SOHO, which became operational in 1996. A limited set of images from the twin STEREO spacecraft are now available, and that access will expand with time.

To get started, first try the Web-based Helioviewer.org. It allows you to browse images, zoom in, make a screen shot, or create a short video of up to a week of solar activity, using up to 300 different solar images.

JHelioviewer is standalone software written in the Java computer language, hence the moniker JHelioviewer. To start, download it from the JHelioviewer.org site and install it on your computer. Versions are available for Mac, Windows, or Linux operating systems.

JHelioviewer has more powerful capabilities than Helioviewer.org, but the tools complement each other, Hughitt explains.

“The Web app is very easy to start using and does not require installing any software, while JHelioviewer, on the other hand, requires a little more setup but has a more flexible movie streaming system and supports some basic image processing that is not yet available on the web version. The projects are meant to be complimentary efforts; think Google Maps and Google Earth.”

TOMORROW: A closer look at Helioviewer.org and its features.


LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki:

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.