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"The Sun as Art" Brings New Light to SOHO Images

Press Release From: Goddard Space Flight Center
Posted: Monday, September 23, 2002

Solar eruptions and magnetic fields are not typically associated with artistic inspiration, but a NASA project is using these phenomena to give people a more creative awareness of the Sun's volatile nature.

Steele Hill, an image and video specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, has created 'The Sun As Art,' a visually stunning and whimsical introduction to the workings of our closest star.

Over the past six months, Hill selected images from various SOHO instruments and transformed them into imaginative portraits of solar activity. In the past, with Hill's assistance, SOHO images have been featured on the cover of rock albums and on skateboards as well as in various traditional publications, fulfilling Hill's goal of arousing public interest in the Sun and SOHO discoveries. 'The Sun As Art' just finished a showing at the NASA Goddard Visitor's Center and is a permanent addition to the NASA website; several images from the series have been picked up by Spaceflight Magazine for a feature article.

Hill focuses on the Sun-Earth connection in his artwork -- one of NASA's main areas of research because of its importance to the public. Some solar activity can interfere with power systems, satellites and radio communications.

Hill, who also runs the SOHO educational outreach program, describes the process as "creative expression...[it's] taking technical material and making it more understandable to a public audience." 'The Sun As Art' was a worthwhile opportunity for him to give the public a richer portrait of solar activity as well as experiment with graphical tools.

SOHO, a cooperative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, observes solar activity through several instruments designed by international consortiums. The phenomena featured in 'The Sun As Art' include coronal mass ejections, huge explosions of billions of tons of particles caused by the breaking of magnetic bonds; solar wind, electrified gas or plasma that reacts to the Sun's magnetic fields; and sunspots, dark, cool areas on the surface of the Sun where magnetic fields have become concentrated.

Hill approached the project after viewing 'Our Earth As Art,' a similar outreach project taken from Landsat7 images but left completely unaltered. Some of 'The Sun As Art' pictures are stunning enough to be left untouched, but for the others, Hill experimented heavily with tone, shadow, and color alterations with spectacular results. In some cases Hill superimposed images of the Sun into other pictures or mirrored the solar activity to create the proper artistic effect.

SOHO is part of NASA's Sun-Earth connection space science research theme, which seeks to understand the changing Sun and its effects on the solar system, the Earth, and society.

'The Sun As Art' as well as other images and video clips can be viewed online at the following URL: http://soho.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/2002_08_29/

Information about SOHO and its instruments can be found at: http://soho.nascom.nasa.gov

The 'Our Earth As Art' series from Landsat7 can be viewed online at: http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/earthasart/

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