Software provides accessible solar images

New software developed by researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) enables the entire library of images from the SOHO solar and heliospheric observatory to be viewed by everyone.

The JHelioviewer visualisation software, developed as part of the ESA/NASA Helioviewer Project, enables users to call up images of the Sun from the past 15 years. More than a million images from SOHO can already be accessed, while new images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory are being added every day.

The downloadable JHelioviewer is complemented by a web-based image browser at

Using this new software, users can create their own movies of the Sun, colour the images as they wish and process the movies in real time. They can export their finished movies in various formats and track features on the Sun by compensating for solar rotation.

’We wanted to make it easy to view solar images from different observatories and instruments, and to make it easy to make movies,’ said Daniel Müller, ESA SOHO deputy project scientist. ’Before, it took hours to combine images from different telescopes to make a movie of the Sun for a given period. With JHelioviewer, everyone can do this in minutes. This is an interactive visual archive of the entire SOHO mission.’

JHelioviewer is written in the Java programming language, hence the ’J’ at the beginning of its name. It is open-source software, meaning that all its components are freely available so others can help to improve the program.

’The goal of JHelioviewer, and the Helioviewer Project as a whole, is to offer intuitive interfaces to large datasets from many different sources. In effect, it is a virtual observatory,’ said Müller.