NASA Celebrates Water's Journey Around The Globe In New Spherical Film
August 14, 2013

NASA Celebrates Water’s Journey Around The Globe In New Spherical Film

[WATCH VIDEO: Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls]

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

The water of our planet is on a constant journey. It escapes from the ocean and surfs on clouds until taking that fateful fall back to the Earth’s surface. A new short film from NASA called “Water Falls” invites the public to ride along with scientists tracking water’s journey around the globe – on a globe.

Produced in partnership with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, specifically for the Science on a Sphere media platform, “Water Falls” tells the story of the movement of water throughout the planet on a spherical screen. This literally gives viewers a 360-degree view of water and the water cycle. The film explains everything about water, from how water in the atmosphere regulates climate, to the global and local consequences of too much or too little rain, to water's effect on society from food production to urban sustainability, and the role of water in dangerous storms and hurricanes.

"Scientists need to know how much it rains and snows globally to better understand a range of applications from natural disasters to crop modeling and weather prediction," said Dalia Kirschbaum, GPM applications scientist and education and public outreach coordinator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

An international satellite mission led by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), GPM’s goal is to measure when, where and how much it rains or snows around the world every three hours. In early 2014, the GPM Core Observatory is set to launch.

“Water Falls” reflects this global perspective as it plays on a globe-like screen consisting of a 50-pound hollow sphere made from carbon fiber – the same material used to make traditional movie screens. The sphere is about six feet in diameter and hangs at eye level from three carbon fiber cables. Covering 90-degree sections each, four projectors surround the screen to present a seamless, fully spherical image for depicting animations, visualizations or live-action video.

By combining visualizations of real data, abstract animations to illustrate science concepts, and live action photography — all using the latest techniques for filming on the technically challenging sphere – the film is at the intersection of art and science. Michael Starobin, the film’s producer, is particularly excited about the story line of “Water Falls,” as well.

"While I spend a lot of my time thinking about the technology, the most important part is always the story," said Starobin. He collaborated with GPM scientists and education and outreach staff to write the script. "Both the satellite mission and the water cycle that it will study describe intricate webs of moving parts, and the film presents these complex interworkings in artistic and approachable ways."

“Water Falls” will premiere at the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Oct. 10 and at The W!LD Center in Tupper Lake, New York on Oct. 12. A worldwide release to 100 other Science on a Sphere platforms will occur on October 23, when the film will debut at Goddard's Visitor Center. Portions of the film will be adapted for 2D screens and developed into short videos in order to further explore some of the science concepts discussed in the film.

“Water Falls” will also have accompanying educational notes and playlists for teachers and lecturers, including a selection of animations from the film as well as other data visualizations from GPM, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and other NASA satellite missions, which will be made available to all Science on a Sphere venue. Lesson plans have been designed for teachers to use before and after viewing, as well as independent lessons and activities for teachers to conduct in their classrooms with accompanying short videos.

The movie underscores the need for accurate precipitation measurements to understand our planet, according to Kirshbaum, who said, "Rain or snow, or both, affect everyone on the planet in some way every day. With a better understanding of the science, the GPM mission can help a lot of people around the world."