Solar Superstorms Documentary Powered by Blue Waters

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Solar_SuperstormsA new high-resolution science documentary about the dynamics of the Sun will feature data-driven supercomputer visualizations produced by NCSA. Narrated by Benedict Cumberbach, Solar Superstorms debuts June 30 at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in Baton Rouge before heading out to more than a dozen planetariums and science centers around the world.

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun – high-velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas. What’s driving these strange phenomena? How will they affect planet Earth? Find the answers as we venture into the seething interior of our star. Solar Superstorms is a major new production that takes viewers into the tangle of magnetic fields and superhot plasma that vent the Sun’s rage in dramatic flares, violent solar tornadoes, and the largest eruptions in the solar system: Coronal Mass Ejections. The show features one of the most intensive efforts ever made to visualize the inner workings of the sun, including a series of groundbreaking scientific visualizations computed on the giant supercomputing initiative, Blue Waters, based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois. Brace yourself for the onslaught of the next ….Solar Superstorm.

stormSolar Superstorms was produced as part of a project called CADENS (Centrality of Advanced Digitally Enabled Science). Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, CADENS spotlights the new knowledge produced thanks to the massive computing and data analysis capabilities now available to scientists, engineers, and scholars. In addition to NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL), led by Donna Cox, the CADENS team includes Spitz Creative Media, Thomas Lucas Productions, and the leaders of the NSF-supported Blue Waters and XSEDE projects, which enable thousands of people across the country to carry out computational and data-driven research.

The Solar Superstorms dome show is a direct result of scientific research whose advance is dependent on extremely powerful computer simulation and visualization,” said Rudolf Eigenmann, a program director at the National Science Foundation. “The resulting representations of the high-resolution, complex numeric simulations convey the beauty, the power and the human relevance of solar storms.”

In the outer 30 percent or so of a star like the Sun, heat is transported outward by convection. The convective circulation carries along any magnetism present in the gas, and can stretch, twist and strengthen the magnetic field—a solar dynamo. A simulation conducted by Mark Miesch of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Nick Nelson, previously at NCAR and now at Los Alamos National Laboratory, examined this magnetized convection deep in the body of a rotating sunlike star, where the rotation organizes the slow circulation into large-scale structures. Their simulations were conducted at the Laboratory for Computational Dynamics, University of Colorado, Boulder and on Pleiades, NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division.

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