Science On a Sphere® (SOS) is a room-sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a large-diameter sphere, creating a giant animated globe. The SOS at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a model for testing new ideas in content creation, educational programming, and science communication.

The exhibit area is a multi-use room in which NOAA employees and guests can have scientific discussions, present to decision-makers, and host educational events. The SOS exhibit in Silver Spring is managed by NOAA's Office of Education and was made possible in 2011 by the support of various NOAA offices to aid in the agency’s cross-cutting priority of promoting environmental literacy.

A Science on a Sphere in a dark room. The Sphere has a map of the world with a large NOAA logo on top.
Science On a Sphere in Silver Spring, Maryland. (NOAA)

What is Science On a Sphere®?

Dr. Alexander MacDonald, director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab, originally developed SOS to view global datasets without image distortion. Now it is used as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth system science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can all be displayed on the sphere. Showing visualizations of real data, NOAA experts and partners can use the sphere to explain complex environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

SOS extends NOAA’s education goals, which are to create an informed society that uses science to make decisions. Through the collaboration of an extensive network of institutions that currently have SOS exhibits and partners that create content and educational programming, NOAA continues to maximize the effectiveness of the SOS platform as an Earth system science education platform.