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Archive for the ‘Visualization’ Category

Christian Ready's video explainer about exoplanet Kepler 22b

December 22, 2011 3 comments

My friend Christian Ready, a web developer who used to work on the Hubble Space Telescope mission, has made a clear, well-paced, and visually captivating explainer video about “the discovery of Kepler 22b, a planet orbiting a star not unlike our own sun at a distance where life can thrive.” (This is the finding that was announced BEFORE the more recent announcement of Kepler 20e and 20f, Earth-sized planets that are not in the so-called “habitable zone” of their star.) You can see other videos by Christian on his YouTube channel.



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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.

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Best Goddard Videos of 2011: Scientific Discoveries

December 12, 2011 2 comments

On Friday this week, NASA/Goddard filmmakers, writers, and animators will screen what they consider their best work of 2011. It’s called the Best of Goddard Film Festival, and it’s held every year about this time for Goddard employees. (For employees, the festival will run from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in the Goett Auditorium, Building 3.)

Even if you are “outside the Center,” you can still watch and enjoy the entries to the festival. They’ll run in groups this week on the blog.

The first group featured on the blog today focuses on NASA scientific discoveries from 2011. Which of these do you like best and why? Reply to the Geeked on Goddard comments section.

Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes

  • Animators: Walt Feimer (HTSI) (Lead); Scott Wiessinger (UMBC); Joseph Dwyer (FIT); Chris Meaney (HTSI)
  • Video Editor: Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Narrator: Karen Fox (ASI)
  • Producer: Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Writers: Francis Reddy (SPSYS); Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)



Swift and Hubble Probe an Asteroid Crash

  • Animators: Michael Lentz (UMBC) (Lead); Walt Feimer (HTSI); Scott Wiessinger (UMBC); Chris Smith (HTSI); Jake Dean (Aloe Design Studios); Chris Meaney (HTSI)
  • Video Editor: Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Narrator: Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Producer: Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Scientist: Dennis Bodewits (University of Maryland College Park)
  • Writers: Francis Reddy (SPSYS); Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)




DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space

  • Animators: Chris Smith (HTSI) (Lead); Tyler Chase (UMBC)
  • Video Editor: Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Interviewee: Michael P. Callahan (NASA/GSFC)
  • Producer: Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Scientist: Michael P. Callahan (NASA/GSFC)
  • Videographer: Ryan Fitzgibbons (USRA)

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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.

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Check out the Viz — a new way to explore the planet and beyond

photo of ipad with nasa viz app displayed

In the past year or so, I was involved in a project here at Goddard to create a new iPad app and it’s finally out. It’s called the NASA Visualization Explorer.

I know, I know — what do they mean by “visualization”? Pardon the jargon. It’s the local industry around here.

“Visualization” is sorta what it sounds like. It’s the process of making something visual. In this case, the thing being visualized is data from NASA’s fleet of scientific satellites.

The crack team of scientist-artists at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio crank this stuff out, and some of it is truly amazing work. But it doesn’t necessarily reach the public. The new iPad app will help to spread the good news: “We got viz!”

If you have an iPad, check this thing out and let us know what you think.


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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.

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Helioviewer's future: an Internet for solar image data

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.

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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.


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How it works: Building the Helioviewer "back end" with JPEG2000

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.

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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.


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Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer

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.

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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.


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The Biggest Computer Monitor You'll Ever See in Your Life

photo of visualization scientist horace mitchell in front of nasa hyperwallExplore@NASA Goddard Day this past Sunday was a huge success, with an estimated 15,000 people coming to Goddard Space Flight Center to meet astronauts, tour the facilities we use to build and test spacecraft, and — on my end of the campus — see the biggest computer monitor you can imagine.

They call it the hyperwall. It’s a bank of HD monitors banked together to create a huge viewing surface to observe and discuss scientific data and visualizations. It consists of fifteen 46-inch high-definition LCD screens — five across, three high — to create a combined 17-by-6 foot surface. The visualization wall displays both high-definition movies of computer simulation results and interactive data visualizations.

The wall can display a single visualization across all 15 screens or up to 15 or more different visualizations at once for comparison. (No, we don’t sneak in after hours to watch Star Wars or play video games.)

Like hundreds of my colleagues, I was pitching in to Explore@NASA Goddard Day. Mission: meet, greet, and guide people to the hyperwall. Below are a few photos I snapped between helping visitors.


nasa goddard hyperwall
Phil Webster (above left), chief of the NASA Center for Climate Simulation, explains how NCCS research and technology helps scientists and meteorologists. (NCCS built and operates the hyperwall.)


nasa goddard sciewntist horace mitchell gives public talk in front of nasa hyperwall
Horace Mitchell (above right) is the Director of the crack team of scientists, animators, and artists in Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio. They make stunning images and movies from actual data collected by NASA spacecraft of Earth and the wider universe.


nasa goddard hyperwall shows polar orbiting satellites
Polar-orbiting satellites swoop over a glowing HD Earth on the hyperwall during the presentations for Explore@NASA Goddard Day.
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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.

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