ESA makes the Sun available to everyone

Dec 14, 2010
A screenshot from the program JHelioviewer, developed by ESA. The solar image was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows a prominence on the solar surface. Credits: ESA JHelioviewer Team

(PhysOrg.com) -- New software developed by ESA makes available online to everyone, everywhere at anytime, the entire library of images from the SOHO solar and heliospheric observatory. Just download the viewer and begin exploring the Sun.

JHelioviewer is new visualisation that enables everyone to explore the Sun. Developed as part of the ESA/NASA Helioviewer Project, it provides a desktop program that enables users to call up images of the Sun from the past 15 years.

More than a million images from SOHO can already be accessed, and new images from ’s Solar Dynamics Observatory are being added every day. The downloadable JHelioviewer is complemented by the website Helioviewer.org, a web-based image browser.

Using this new software, users can create their own movies of the Sun, colour the images as they wish, and image-process the movies in real time. They can export their finished movies in various formats, and track features on the Sun by compensating for solar rotation.

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A gigantic mega-filament of incandescent gas erupts from the Sun. The data was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory and the movie was constructed using ESA's JHelioviewer. Credits: ESA JHelioviewer Team

“We wanted to make it easy to view solar images from different observatories and instruments, and to make it easy to make movies,” says Daniel Müller, ESA SOHO Deputy Project Scientist. “Before, it took hours to combine images from different telecopes to make a movie of the for a given period. With JHelioviewer, everyone can do this in minutes. This is an interactive visual archive of the entire mission.”

JHelioviewer is written in the Java programming language, hence the ‘J’ at the beginning of its name. It is open-source software, meaning that all its components are freely available so others can help to improve the program.

The code can even be reused for other purposes; it is already being used for Mars data and in medical research. This is because JHelioviewer does not need to download entire datasets, which can often be huge – it can just choose enough data to stream smoothly over the Internet.

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A series of extraordinary eruptions exploded from the Sun during Halloween 2003. This movie, constructed using ESA's JHelioviewer, captures not only the solar storms but the planet Mercury, as it orbits the Sun. Credits: ESA JHelioviewer Team

It also allows data to be annotated, say, solar flares of a particular magnitude to be marked or diseased tissues in medical images to be highlighted.

“The goal of JHelioviewer, and the Helioviewer Project as a whole, is to offer intuitive interfaces to large datasets from many different sources. In effect, it is a virtual observatory,” says Müller.

Explore further: Cassini watches mysterious feature evolve in Titan sea

More information: JHelioviewer can be downloaded from here and will work on Mac, PC or Linux machines. A basic handbook to get users started is available here.

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FerretPD
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
*laffs*...this isn't really "news"...the Android App "Tricorder" has been harvesting that information for *months.*