Nuclear Fusion Sequence for the NASA -Buhl Planetarium "Solar Quest" fulldome planetarium show


Home Run Pictures recently worked with Buhl Planetarium at Carnegie Science Center to create a 10 minute fulldome planetarium program called "Solar Quest." The program would hilight the NASA Solar Dynamics Laboratory (SDO) spacecraft's amazing imagery of the Sun, but the fulldome show needed to create an immersive look at the inner workings of our solar system's star. The script called for a section where the creation of a star, in this case our Sun, was described. That requirement would demand we dive into a view at the atomic level showing hydrogen and helium atoms colliding in fusion fashion and releasing large amounts of energy that power a star.


The creative called for a dive down to the atomoc level, but since a fulldome scene is immersive, the desire was to surround the viewer so you would feel as though you were inside the action. The task would require the animation of hundreds of atoms, their orbiting electrons and depict collisions releasing energy. Seventeen year old summer intern, Warren Casey was asked to animate the scene's atomic level sequence. He used Maya's MEL language to generate the hundrds of atoms and their orbiting particles. Particle emitters were scripted to generate those atoms and the resulting release of energy from the fusion reactions.


Along with the particle scripts, Maya FluidEfx was employed to generate the hot fusion environment and resulting photon ride from the Sun's core out to the surface where a massive fluid simulation would show the Sun in a dramatic view that needed to be as realistic looking as the actual imagery being captured by NASA's SDO cameras.


The atomic portion of the sequence was so complex that the actual rendering of the final 4K imagery would tax the studio's render farm... the final frames eventually rendered as multiple layers because of the large amounts of computer memery, RAM, needed for the calculations.


The "Solar Quest" program is being distributed to 50 planetariums as part of the NASA grant to further an understanding of the Sun and the mission of the Solar Dynamics Laboratory.

Click here for Quicktime movie of Solar Quest Fusion sequence

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