Solar Superstorms

Solar Superstorms Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch

A fury is building on the surface of the Sun – high-velocity jets, a fiery tsunami wave that reaches 100,000 kilometers high, rising loops of electrified gas. What’s driving these strange phenomena? How will they affect planet Earth? Find the answers as we venture into the seething interior of our star. Solar Superstorms is a major new production that takes viewers into the tangle of magnetic fields and superhot plasma that vent the Sun’s rage in dramatic flares, violent solar tornadoes, and the largest eruptions in the solar system: Coronal Mass Ejections.

The show features one of the most intensive efforts ever made to visualize the inner workings of the sun, including a series of groundbreaking scientific visualizations computed on the giant supercomputing initiative, Blue Waters, based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois.

Brace yourself for the onslaught of the next ….Solar Superstorm.

A joint full-dome production by NCSA, University of Illinois | Thomas Lucas Productions | Spitz Creative Media, in association with the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado (Boulder).

This project has been made possible with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Film Office, and with funding by the National Science Foundation.

Running time: 24 minutes

Solar Superstorms explores related content including:

  • The Earth-Sun relationship
  • Importance of magnetic fields in space
  • The nature of polar auroras
  • Space weather and the threat to communications and power networks
  • Monitoring solar behavior

Solar Superstorms, on AVL website


Honorable Mention
Espinho Fulldome Festival


Official Selection
SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater


Award Winner
Jena Fulldome Festival


Official Selection
Gwacheon International Film Festival


Audience Award
IPS Brno Fulldome Festival


Official Selection
Astra Film Festival,


Official Selection
Macon Film Festival


Annual Dome Film Award
Beijing Film Festival(BISTF)


Official Selection
Inner Mongolia Science & Technology
Fulldome Festival

Other distribution formats

Television distribution
TVF International: 4k – 25 minutes / HD – 50 minutes

Long-form web distribution
YouTube: Cosmic Journeys – Solar Superstorms HD – 44 minutes
Amazon Prime: Solar Superstorms Journey to the Center of the Sun HD – 44 minutes Solar Superstorms Journey to the Center of the Sun PAL Format DVD – 44 minutes
Full Dome Database: Solar Superstorms Full Dome version – 24 minutes

Short-form web distribution
YouTube: When A Solar Storm Engulfs Earth

Supplemental materials are available for download for educational purposes. Credit must be given to the researchers and visualization teams

4K Dome Images | 4K 16×9 Cutout Images | Visualization Credits | Visualization Documentation

EDUCATOR’S GUIDE for Solar Superstorms


Visualization Excerpts

Solar Superstorms News

06.02.15: Universe Today, This Video About Solar Superstorms is Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch and It Looks Awesome.
06.09.15: Fulldome Database, Solar Superstorms: How Big Data Feeds a Big Movie
06.23.15: Fulldome Database, New Fulldome Show from Spitz, “Solar Superstorms,” Ready to Brighten Planetariums Around the World
06.26.15: InPark Magazine, Benedict Cumberbatch Explores “Solar Superstorms” in First Completed CADENS Project…
06.29.15: NCSA, Computational science and data visualization take the spotlight in new Solar Superstorms documentary
06.30.15: Inside HPC, Solar Superstorms Documentary Powered by Blue Waters
06.30.15: National Science Foundation, Computational science and data visualization take the spotlight in new documentary
06.30.15: HPC Wire, NCSA Debuts “Solar Superstorms” Documentary
07.01.15: Popular Science, Journey Into The Sun’s Guts With Benedict Cumberbatch As Your Guide