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Solar wind visualization at NOAA SWPC


George Millward and his colleagues at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) use IDL, among other tools, to study, monitor and forecast solar events that impact GPS, power grids and communications networks on Earth. On the WSA-Enlil Solar Wind Prediction page, Dr. Millward uses IDL Object Graphics to visualize output from a model of solar activity and Javascript to animate the result as a time series. Here's a sample frame from the animation: WSA-Enlil solar wind prediction at 2013-03-15, 00:00 UTC

(Click to embiggen.)

From the WSA-Enlil Solar Wind Prediction page, a description of this plot:

The top row plots show predictions of the solar wind density. The bottom row plots show solar wind velocity. The circular plots on the left are a view from above the North Pole of the Sun and Earth, as if looking down from above. The Sun is the yellow dot in the center and the Earth is the green dot on the right. Also shown are the locations of the two STEREO satellites. These plots often depict spiral structures, due to solar rotation. The wedge-shaped plots in the center provide a side view, with north at the top and south at the bottom. The graphs on the right show the model predictions for the time evolution of density and velocity at the locations of Earth and of the two STEREO spacecraft. The yellow vertical line is in sync with the movies on the left, so it is possible to see how values of density and velocity correspond to particular solar wind structures.

Thanks, George! (Are we getting hit by a solar storm at 6 pm today?) If you've done something cool with IDL that you'd like to share, please let me know! Note: Dr. Millward's article was also highlighted recently in the "Research Spotlight" section of Eos, Vol. 94, No. 17, 23 April 2013.