Seeing the Sun Through Data

Adriene Lilly
July 28th 2015

Between its 149 million km distance from earth and its extreme brightness, the sun has never been easy to observe. Ever since we started looking into the sky we’ve needed special lenses, photographs, telescopes and sunglasses to get the slightest glance at it. Today however, with more advanced imaging technology and orbiting telescopes, we’re getting a better look. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum has taken this observation to the next level with a giant public display of images and data that show the sun in hyper-real detail.

This solar simulacrum exceeds anything perceivable by the naked eye – or even the telescopic one – as it combines the enormous amounts of data, two terabytes a day, and imagery received from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and turns that into an approachable installation.

Displays like this one are attempting to give us further insight into the unseen details of space. Taking a note from game developers and considering it an “artistic pursuit” the scientists involved in the project, Henry Winter III and Mark Weber, say they want to “replace” the flat mental image of the sun that we have in our minds and show “that there’s this whole other aspect of the sun that’s beautiful and complicated”. In other words, the project is out to intensify our understanding of the sun.

Read more at the Smithsonian’s website

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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