CfA-designed solar exhibit opens at National Air and Space Museum

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“The Dynamic Sun,” a new exhibit conceived, designed and built by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), has just opened at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C. It features a giant video wall intended to create a visceral impact and show visitors how an ever-changing Sun affects Earth.

“The sun is stunning in its complexity and beauty. We study it every day, and we never cease to be amazed. We wanted to bring a new understanding of our home star to a wider audience,” says Smithsonian astrophysics and project co-leader Henry Winter III.

“The Dynamic Sun” combines six 50-inch monitors to create a 7 by 6 ft. field of view. It displays images from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a CfA-designed instrument on board NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. These images of the full Sun’s atmospheric layers are taken every 12 seconds with an image size of 4096 x 4096 pixels. By comparison, a high-definition TV can only display 1920 x 1080 pixels.

“We wanted to make the most awesome video display we can make,” says Smithsonian astrophysicist Mark Weber, another project co-leader. “It had to meet the highest standards of quality and educational content.”