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Visual Art and Music Based on Solar Data


Visuals and Sound from
Florian Grond, Frank Halbig,
Jesper Munk Jensen and Thorbjørn Lausten

Florian Grond, Frank Halbig, Jesper Munk Jensen and Thorbjørn Lausten are collaborating on a project entitled Sol that was presented at ZKM Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, in the Fall of 2004 and was displayed Esbjerg, Denmark May 2005. This project involves transforming scientific data into media. See Data of Two Suncycles (

For this project they used solar data spanning the last 20 years. Four different data sets have been visualized (above, largest image) as well as audiofied, with each set based on the following data:

  • Front left: Irradience, the total energy output of the Sun
  • Front Right: The solar wind
  • Back left: Sunspot numbers and positions
  • Back right: The solar magnetic mean field

(The solar magnetic mean field dataset was taken from the Wilcox Solar Observatory, part of the Solar Observatories Group here at Stanford.)

Hear Solar Music Too!

Hear the Sol solar music at: Data of Two Suncycles. (Enter the website, then click on the Video and Sound links.)


Visuals done by Thorbjørn Lausten

Images from the Dataview project.

The project Dataview shows four visualisations of the four parameters from the Carrington Rotations* that occured from January until September 2003. The idea was to have the solar oscillations described in the data control the motion of several lamps and filters. The image projected by these lamps would then change shape and color according to the movement of the solar surface. The triangle, cross and square seen in the picture above, left, are controlled by MDI data taken from different points on the solar surface. The circles in the front and lines in the rear are controlled by data from the solar wind. To demonstrate the interaction of two different configurations as the data visualizations proceed, the figure was generated by two DVD-video projections beamed onto the suspended semi-transparent screen from each side of the screen.

One projection consists of four broad bands each of which represents aspects of the Carrington Rotations. In the other projections, each is divided into sections consisting of four units which again represent the four aspects. The projections change every one second or every half second, each representing one measurement. Each of the four visualizations was done with a beamer and a DVD player. The duration was about twenty minutes, then the whole thing was repeated. The project was done in collaboration with the astophysicist Ib Lundgaard Rasmussen from the Danish Space Research Institute, Copenhagen.

The artist, Thorbjørn Lausten has had a long interest in the interface of art, science and technology. He has published in the online journal Leonardo, and was a research fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, M.I.T.. According to Lausten, "A main intention in doing this piece, and other pieces with visualization of scientific data, is that there is an absolute one-to-one relation between data and visualisazition which, among other thing, means that you give the image/projection not only an aestetic function, but a function exactly as exact as the data which are used, or you may say that you give the image a logical function. I think that a main obstacle in the discussion about the difference/s between art and science is that one does not realize that both art and science function as representations and that mathematics is also a symbolic language. It has been pointed out by Max Bense that the 'semiotic sign as such', the concept of 'mathematical figure' and 'the aestetic state' all belong to the same triadic class of signs as defined by Pierce, which, in my opinion at least, has very wide ranging ramifications. Another main intention was to show how important visualization is in order to understand and construct our world be it art or science."

To read more about the DataView project, go to the website and click on Datablik.


* The number of rotations of the Sun's surface, as seen from the Earth, since November 9, 1853. The mean period for a single Carrington rotation is 27.2753 days.

Credits: Permission to use the images graciously given by Thorbjørn Lausten. Solar data researched and provided by Jesper Munk Jensen. Visualizations for SOL done by Florian Grond and Thorbjørn Lausten. Sonification completed by Frank Halbig in collaboration with Florian Grond and Thorbjørn Lausten. "Dataview" photography by Anders Sune Berg. Photograph of the four suspended screens by Florian Grond.
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