The image panels featured on this page constitute a first ever attempt at generating synthetic images and animations of the aurora borealis employing high-performance computer workstation technology and some recent advances in the field of Computer Science, while at the same time incorporating very real auroral physics. The purposes of such simulations are both educational and artistic (public outreach, mass-media, multi-media performances, planetaria). This work, which commenced in May of 1999, is considered timely considering the approaching solar cycle maximum, and the attendant heightened awareness of the general public to the Northern Lights phenomenon (as witnessed, for example, by the recent New York Times article, ``Earth, Wind, and Fireworks: Solar Storms at Their Peak Blow Northern Lights South,'' Tuesday, March 28, 2000, for which one of the co-investigators of this project was interviewed).
The numbered images within each of the below panels are simulated (synthetic) images of the Aurora. The few unnumbered images included are actual photographs, included here for purposes of comparison. Note that the synthetic images were generated by incorporating real auroral physics, i.e., they were not the result of simplistic ad hoc attempts at imitating the photographic impressions. Details are available in the form of a Technical Report.
Please switch off any ambient room lighting, grab a cup of coffee, and carefully browse these images. Click on the thumbnailed versions of the color panels to see corresponding full-sized versions. Please feel free to forward any comments to Gladimir Baranoski or Trond S. Trondsen.
Important Note: These images were generated using 4 x 500 MHz Ev6 Alpha processors, and were reviewed prior to publication using Silicon Graphics (SGI) workstations. Great care was taken to generate scientifically realistic color profiles and arc emission widths as function of altitude, etc. Due to the typical color/gamma differences that exist between SGI and PC/Macintosh video generating circuitry, you may need to adjust your monitor's brightness/contrast/color controls somewhat for optimum results (or, if possible, run Netscape from an SGI console).
For further details on the simulation scheme, view our Technical Report, which is available there in PDF format, along with an ASCII abstract.
NOTE: These images are representative of different stages of our research. The later series below incorporate some of the latest refinements to the technique, and are thus considered `better' simulations. Animations are currently under preparation.
Rui's Graphics Research
More Real images of the aurora. [Norway]
Jan's excellent aurora links. [Alaska]
Web page maintained by Trond S Trondsen (firstname.lastname@example.org). Last modified Tue Apr 11 11:32:50 MDT 2000.