Science On a Sphere® was invented by Dr. Alexander "Sandy" MacDonald, the director of the
NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, CO and OAR Deputy Assistant
Administrator for NOAA Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes.
Dr. MacDonald came up with the concept for Science On a Sphere® in 1995 as an outgrowth of
other visualization projects he was directing within the former Forecast Systems Laboratory.
An early prototype of Science On a Sphere® was built in 1995, followed by an earnest effort to
develop a complete system beginning in the year 2000.
David Himes was the original lead software engineer on the project, who along with others,
engineered, developed, and integrated all of the software and hardware components used to
create a Science On a Sphere® system.
A patent was awarded to NOAA for Science On a Sphere® in August 2005, with Dr. MacDonald
credited as the inventor.
A large visualization system that uses computers and video projectors.
Display animated data onto the outside of a sphere.
An animated globe that shows dynamic images of atmosphere, oceans,
Education and outreach tool to describe the environmental processes of
Cite des Sciences de L Industrie Paris Alaska State Museum, Juneau, AK Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy
68”, 60” and 48”
carbon fiber spheres
2, 3, or 4 projectors
desktop computer, plus
SOS software renders Lat/Long maps into four
spherical images for the projectors to display
Over 500 Standard Datasets
Over 40 Movies produced for SOS
Over 30 Real-time Datasets
Categories: Atmosphere, Land, Ocean,
Astronomy, Models & Simulations, Extras
Authorized SOS Distributor and Installer
Manufactures the carbon fiber sphere
Installed over 100 SOS systems
Provide technical specifications for hardware required
to build a complete SOS system
Provide detailed installation and technical requirements
Knowledge of equipment specs and installation logistics
On staff SOS tech support
Supply customized content and dataset service
Developed specialized tools & techniques for a successful
Work with customer staff to ensure that the site requirements
Provide upgrades to the SOS system software as they
Desktop icon to switch from main to backup computer.
Single click alignment backup and restore icon.
Desktop icon to turn on auto backup function that sends alignment file to other
Single click to switch video output from one computer to the other.
Music visualizer: Displays dynamic images on the sphere that are synced
Real-time Satellite Tracking: Tracks and maps satellites in real-time and
displays them on the sphere.
For Scientific Studies, and Data Tracking
Educational tool that is used in science museums & visitor centers
In Zoos, aquariums, laboratories & schools
Stimulates students’ interest in science related careers
Offers a spectacular look at our world and the universe
Viewers can see and hear music visualizations
Watch climate change over 500 years
Travel back in time to the late Paleozoic era to see Pangea
Watch the journey of a young loggerhead sea turtle named Delta
And Much More…
Creates exposure to Earth science, with an estimated annual visitor ship
of more than 24 million people
Enhances environmental literacy and improve understanding, value, and
use of weather and water information and services
Engages audiences of all ages and builds public understanding of the
scientific, technological, and environmental topics
ESRL NOAA NASA, GSFCSpace Foundation VC
science to life”
“This is excellent material to understand
the earth and Mars! I am not good at the
science, but it's easy to understand for
me! You should show all children in the
world. Everyone loves it.”
“Would come back as often as
possible. Wonderful learning
“Simply the idea
of it - never seen
anything like it!
I'm not even
much of a science
person - it's just
“Too numerous to list
and brought sense to
all science classes
learned in school and
college.” “The 3-D images
on a sphere are
that cannot be
Over 100 worldwide SOS installations in:
Museums, Visitor Centers, Aquariums,
Labs, Zoos, Schools/Universities
62 Domestic Exhibits in 28 States
42 International Exhibits in 25 Countries
Easy to use interface for
Over 115 datasets, including real-
time datasets with descriptions
Educational videos linked to
specific datasets for deeper inquiry
Tours that create a narrative
through the datasets and help
users make connections
Analysis tools to easily measure,
probe, and plot data from the
Immersive, first person
experiences: walk on the Moon or
pilot a submarine
Pictured left to right:
Scott Muller (CTO) & John Marciniak (President)
with BWC Visual Technology.
NOAAS’s Dr. Alexander “Sandy” MacDonald, Inventor
of SOS and Director of Earth System Research Lab,
NOAA’s Mark Schaefer, Assistant Secretary for
Conservation and Management.
Trade Shows, Fairs, Corporate Events
Two days for installation and basic
One day for dismantle, packing and
ASTC 2003, Minneapolis, MN SC-12 Internet 2, Salt Lake City EU Celebration, French Embassy, 2008
Natl. Science Teachers Assoc. 2009 CNES 2003, Strasbourg, France, 2008 AAAS 2010, (Washington, DC)