Sunday, August 05, 2007

Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine

Europa, arguably Jupiter's most elegant moon.

Science on a Sphere is a gimmicky name for one of the most jaw-dropping science visualization techniques I have seen in my life.

I'll let NOAA, the agency that developed Science on a Sphere, explain what it is:
Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.
Yes, baby. You sit in the dark and the projectors beam synchronized images of a planet, or the sun, or a moon, onto this sphere, and then set it in motion. You can see pictures and movies online here, but let me explain: the sphere is the point. If you have a chance, go see one. We saw the one at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, but they are installed at science centers all over the country.

When they showed the earth, suspended in the darkness as it is in space, glowing blue and green and white, tears came to my eyes. Compared to all the other hunks of rocks in our solar system, it looked to me as complex and lush and vulnerable as a sea urchin's egg.