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Media Advisory 16-008

Scientific visualizations heat up new documentary that helps explain sun’s strange phenomena

National Science Foundation invites media to Capitol Hill screening of 'Solar Superstorms'

Solar Superstorms - Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch

Solar Superstorms documentary looks into the sun's violent phenomena and their impacts on Earth.

May 20, 2016

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the supercomputer company Cray Inc., and Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Gary Peters of Michigan invite members of the media to attend a special screening of the documentary "Solar Superstorms" May 25 at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

High-velocity jets, fiery tsunamis that reach up to 100,000 kilometers and rising loops of electrified gas -- NSF and Cray Inc. ask what's driving these strange phenomena that take place on the sun and how might they affect planet Earth?

Without question, these occurrences are beautiful, but every year, they cost the United States billions of dollars.

This groundbreaking scientific documentary features the most intensive computational models of the sun's inner workings ever made. Mathematical models, which helped produce incredible scientific visualizations, were computed on one of the most powerful computers in the world: the NSF-funded Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The screening features a full airing of the documentary, which is narrated by acclaimed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock," "The Imitation Game," "War Horse"), followed by a panel discussion with scientific experts, who contributed to the documentary's production.

See the trailer of Solar Superstorms.


Capitol Hill screening of Solar Superstorms


Wednesday, May 25, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Russell Senate Office Building
Room 253
2 Constitution Ave NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

Hosted by:

NSF and Cray Inc.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida.)

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan)


Barry C. Bolding
Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
Cray Inc.

Jason Samenow
Weather Editor
The Washington Post


Donna Cox
National Center for Supercomputing Applications
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Mark Miesch
National Center for Atmospheric Research


John Wise
Georgia Institute of Technology

To speak with featured guests or speakers about their work, journalists should contact NSF's Bobbie Mixon to help arrange onsite interviews:, (703) 292-8485.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8485, email:

Principal Investigators
Donna Cox, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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