SOCIS-2011 Ideas

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This pages gives an overview of coding opportunities for ESA's Summer of Code in Space 2011.



The aim of the Helioviewer Project is to enable exploration of the Sun and the surrounding heliosphere for everyone, everywhere via intuitive interfaces and novel technology.

The Helioviewer Project is a joint ESA/NASA open-source project. It offers both a Java/OpenGL visualization tool, JHelioviewer, and a web application,, for interactively viewing solar image data. Its design makes use of the new JPEG 2000 compression standard. JPEG 2000 offers many useful new features and has the potential to revolutionize the way high-resolution image data are disseminated and analyzed. In particular, the JPEG 2000 Interactive Protocol (JPIP) enables serving data in a highly compressed, quality-progressive, region-of-interest-based stream. These features minimize the data volume transmitted while maximizing its usability. This is especially relevant for solar physics since NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has started providing more than a terabyte of image data per day. The Helioviewer Project recently finished the procurement of an open-source JPIP server, and is now using it to make about 30,000 new solar 16 megapixel images publicly browseable per day.

From Day 1, the Helioviewer Project had had a strong student involvement, and we were able to demonstrate that ambitious scientific software development can be realized as an open-source project, driven by talented young people. We have many ideas on how to extend and improve our software, and would be happy to welcome new team members.


Visualizing 3D Vector Fields

Space missions generate an ever-growing amount of data, as exemplified by the Solar Dynamics Observatoryʼs (SDO) staggering data return of 1.4 Terabyte per day. In addition to the sheer data volume — four orders of magnitude larger than those of current missions — the multi-dimensional nature of space science data is increasingly posing fundamental challenges in terms of data access, browsing, analysis and visualization. These challenges currently act as a severe bottleneck that needs to be overcome to exploit the full scientific potential of our new and future missions. We propose to augment the functionality of the successful open-source framework JHelioviewer by 3D rendering capabilities, especially time-dependent 3D vector field visualization. The final product will provide the first-ever routine visualization of time-dependent solar vector magnetic fields and will allow a direct comparison with numerical models. The tool will fulfill an urgent and unmet need of the scientific community and will be very helpful for the scientific analysis of data from current missions like SDO and Hinode.


  1. Implementing a 3D World Coordinate System in JHelioviewer
  2. Developing a stereoscopic mode to display solar images from NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft
  3. Visualization of physical variables in 3D with the goal of bringing together the latest high-resolution data and state-of-the-art 3D models.

Interactive HD Video Streaming with JPIP

The Helioviewer Project recently finished the procurement of an open-source JPIP server, and is now using it to make about 30,000 new solar 16 megapixel images publicly browseable per day. While this is already working very well, the video streaming performance could be improved by making use of video-specific features of the JPEG 2000 protocol. The results of developing improved video streaming methods have a wide range of applications, e.g. for tele-medicine and tele-microscopy.

Visualizing Dynamic Phenomena in JHelioviewer using OpenGL/JOGL


  1. Implementing a running-difference movie mode. The visibility of dynamic phenomena can often be improved by displaying differences of adjacent images of a time series (or differences relative to a fixed reference image).
  2. Extending JHelioviewer's movie export capabilities. The movie export mode is one of the most popular features in JHelioviewer, as it allows users to create custom-made movies of the Sun. We have received many requests to augment this functionality, so this is a great opportunity to become very popular!

A Virtual Solar Observatory Plugin for JHelioviewer

The Virtual Solar Observatory (VSO) provides access to solar data from a large number of different sources. A beta version of a plugin to make this functionality available from within JHelioviewer has already been developed. The current functionality shall be reviewed, tested and expanded in close interaction with actual users.

The Citizen Scientist

The success of projects like Galaxy Zoo shows that crowd-sourcing offers interesting opportunities for discovery in the age of huge data volumes. One possible project is to implement a Youtube-plugin to enable users to upload movies created with JHelioviewer. Our web application already has this functionality, and the recent huge prominence eruption on the Sun (June 7) was first reported by an unknown person on the internet using this service.

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