National Air and Space Museum Debuts Dynamic Sun Video Wall Installation

March 19, 2015
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The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has installed a Dynamic Sun Video Wall at the museum in Washington, D.C. The 7-by-6-foot wall shows full sun observations captured the previous day, space-weather forecasts and scientific explanations of solar features. The high-resolution images help visitors better understand the complexities of the sun’s behavior.

The museum collaborated with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and NASA to produce this dynamic display. Contrary to popular belief, the sun is far from being a static object. To study its regular changes, SAO has teamed up with NASA and its Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite with three scientific instruments that monitor the sun continuously with unprecedented coverage in angular resolution and spectral range. One of those instruments is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, built by Lockheed Martin and SAO, which generates beautiful, high-resolution images of the sun. Ten images, showing the different layers of the full sun’s atmosphere, are taken every 12 seconds with an image size of 4096-by-4096 pixels. By comparison, a high-definition TV can only display 1920-by-1080 pixels. The museum’s Sun Video Wall will demonstrate to visitors why images at this resolution are needed to study, understand and predict solar behavior.

The Dynamic Sun Video Wall combines six 50-inch monitors to create the 7-by-6-foot field of view. A display of this size is essential to be able to simultaneously show the evolution of these high-energy events at the required spatial resolution to understand the complex relationship between the sun’s atmosphere and space weather.

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Attendance at both buildings combined exceeded 8 million in 2014, making it the most visited museum in America. The museum’s research, collections, exhibitions and programs focus on aeronautical history, space history and planetary studies. Both buildings are open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25).

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Alison Mitchell