ESRL Global Systems Division

Science On a Sphere® Installed in American Samoa

The NOAA Science On a Sphere® (SOS) team just got back from a week in Pago Pago, American Samoa working with the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff to install SOS in the Tauese P. F. Sunia Ocean Center. This marks the 84th SOS installation around the world and just the second in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Tauese P. F. Sunia Ocean Center is a new facility that includes offices for the sanctuary staff, conference rooms, and exhibits. The Ocean Center is scheduled to open August 17 and will then host the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting from August 19 - 25, 2012.

Science On a Sphere® is installed in the central room which doubles as an exhibit space and conference room. To transform the room from an exhibit hall to a conference room, the sphere for SOS is raised to the top of the vaulted ceiling, well above the heads of everyone, using a special lift to be installed soon.

SOS is a large visualization system that uses computers and video projectors to display animated data onto the outside of a sphere. It was invented by Dr. Alexander "Sandy" MacDonald, the Director of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo and OAR Deputy Assistant Administrator for NOAA Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes. Dr. MacDonald came up with the concept for SOS in 1995 as an outgrowth of other visualization projects he was directing within the former Forecast Systems Laboratory. The SOS Program is administratively and technically housed in ESRL's Global Systems Division/Technology Outreach Branch (GSD/TOB).

Researchers at NOAA continue to develop and advance SOS as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth system science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere, which is used to explain complex environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

SOS is a NOAA program that has developed a revolutionary system for educating the public on the holistic nature of Earth's ever-changing oceans, atmosphere, and land. SOS presents NOAA's global science in a new and exciting way by providing an engaging three-dimensional representation of our planet as if the viewer were looking at the Earth from outer space.

SOS extends NOAA's educational program goals, which are designed to increase public understanding of the environment. Using NOAA's collective experience and knowledge of the Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere, NOAA uses SOS as an instrument to enhance informal educational programs in science centers, universities, and museums across the country and globally. SOS is available to any institution and is currently in operation at 84 facilities in the United States and around the world.

Contact information
Name: William Bendel
Tel: 303-497-6708