Friday, June 26, 2015

Events on the Sun can disrupt Earth's communications grid: "Solar Superstorms"

Benedict Cumberbatch narrates new fulldome documentary from Spitz Creative Media, “Solar Superstorms,” screening in planetariums and science centers around the world

What can cause our normally benign sun to erupt in such fury that it can threaten the world’s power and technological infrastructure?

Dr. Donna Cox, AVL/NCSA
“When Spitz Creative Media announced that it was going to produce a new fulldome show titled ‘Solar Superstorms,’ we were ready to lease it based simply on the description.” With those words, Dionysios P. Simopoulos, Director Emeritus of Eugenides Planetarium (Athens), echoed the response Spitz has been hearing from planetarium directors around the world.


Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, “Solar Superstorms” is a 24-minute, high-resolution science documentary produced for the dome, about the dynamics of the Sun and how it can affect Earth’s communications infrastructure. The show features visualizations of cutting edge supercomputer simulations - a signature element of productions from the team of Spitz Creative Media, the Advanced Visualization Lab (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and Thomas Lucas Productions (TLP).

“Solar Superstorms” was produced in association with Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The project was made possible with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Film Office, and funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the CADENS project spearheaded by Dr. Donna Cox. CADENS, or the “Centrality of Digitally Enabled Science,” is a ground-breaking initiative designed to showcase deep scientific explorations now possible by a new generation of supercomputers.

Thomas Lucas, Thomas Lucas Prodns.
As CADENS’ first completed project, "Solar Superstorms" takes audiences into the inner workings of our star. It follows the path of hot electrified gas as it rises from the Sun’s core, through its tangled journey through the Sun’s volatile outer layers, and on to explosive magnetic eruptions so powerful they can reach Earth.

“Solar Superstorms” will premiere to the public in North America on June 30 at the the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum (Baton Rouge), and in Europe on July 4 at Planétarium Gallilée at Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole in France. It will then roll out to more than a dozen planetariums and science centers around the world. The growing list of initial showcases includes Planetarium Hamburg (Germany), the State Museum of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), Tellus Science Museum (Cartersville, Georgia), and the Eugenides Planetarium (Athens).

“We are very impressed with this new film,” said Cyril Ruiz of Planétarium Gallilée. “The imagery is of great quality, and the narration is succinct, allowing the audience plenty of room to contemplate the images in this highly immersive medium. We chose ‘Solar Superstorms’ because we wanted a product in line with the theme of the International Year of Light.”

“We will open ‘Solar Superstorms’ as our main feature this fall,” said David A. Dundee, Astronomy Program Manager, Tellus Science Museum. “It will be an option for schools to book as well as our main feature for the public. The science is accurate and clearly presented, and the production quality is excellent.”
Visualization of supercomputer data for "Solar Superstorms"

Industry premiere at SEPA, June 24
“Solar Superstorms” premiered to the planetarium industry on June 24, at the 2015 Southeastern Planetarium Association (SEPA) conference.

About “Solar Superstorms”
“Solar Superstorms” is available in 4K 2D, with 5.1 or stereo soundtrack and distributed by Spitz Creative Media and Evans & Sutherland.

Read more about CADENS here:

Read more about the production of “Solar Superstorms” here:

About NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory
The Advanced Visualization Laboratory’s (AVL) mission is to communicate science, inspiring audiences to learn about scientific concepts through capturing the thrill of scientific discovery and wonder of complex systems. Working in close collaboration with domain scientists, AVL creates high-resolution, cinematic, data-driven scientific visualizations. The lab is part of the University of Illinois’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), which is dedicated to providing powerful computers and expert support to help thousands of scientists and engineers across the country improve our world. Visit

About Thomas Lucas Productions
Thomas Lucas Productions, Inc. is a film editing and production company based in Armonk, New York. With productions that range from the vastness of space, to the depths of the ocean, to the center of volcanoes in amazing resolution, TLP is dedicated to making documentaries of the very highest quality. Visit

About Spitz Creative Media
Spitz Creative Media partnerships have resulted in some of the most successful fulldome films in circulation, including “Dynamic Earth,” “Supervolcanoes,” and “The Zula Patrol,” now screening in hundreds of planetariums. The extensive Spitz fulldome content library also features such premium titles as the Denver Museum of Nature & Science production “Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity,” seen by millions worldwide. Spitz is headquartered in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania USA, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation. Visit