Orthogonal Multipole Magnetic Basis Vectors

Remember x, y, z axes from math class? The important thing about those directions is they are at 90 degrees with each other. Without this property mathematics becomes even more challenging. The current solution for x, y, z axes, but for magnetic fields, are not at 90 degrees. Orthogonal Multipole Magnetic Basis Vectors (OMMBV), created by Dr. Russell Stoneback, is the first solution for x, y, z magnetic axes that are also at 90 degrees (orthogonal) and capable of mapping physical quantities along magnetic field lines, a property that makes it possible for scientists to begin to understand plasma motions in even the most complicated of magnetic fields. OMMBV is open source and freely available.

Satellite Missions and OMMBV

OMMBV can map electric fields and plasma motions along magnetic field lines to other locations. This unique OMMBV property is needed for the NASA Ionospheric Connections (ICON) Explorer mission. Remote measurements of neutral winds at low altitudes are compared to local measurements of plasma motion at the satellite, using OMMBV, to understand how these two components of Earth’s upper atmosphere interact. For other missions such as COSMIC-2, C/NOFS, and SORTIE CubeSat, OMMBV is used to express plasma measurements along directions optimized for science.

NASA ICON satellite; Credit: NASA Goddard’s Conceptual Image Lab/B. Monroe

OMMBV and Visual Artwork

To produce accurate outputs each function within OMMBV needs to be accurate. A suite of unit tests was developed to ensure this accuracy, including plots to help identify sources of error. These plots were generated by calculating OMMBV outputs across a range of locations, then re-running those same calculations with one of the user inputs slightly modified. Despite being created for a technical purpose the images are also stunning.

To ensure the most accurate images each calculated value is directly visible in the image and perceptually uniform colormaps are used to visually translate raw data. These colormaps ensure that underlying data variations are matched with equal changes in perceived brightness. The same changes in brightness are perceived even in grayscale providing a visually accessible image when accounting for color perception variations. By default these colormaps have an insufficient number of colors for fine art applications thus Dr. Stoneback expanded the colormaps to fully utilize a 24-bit colorspace.

The result is artwork only made possible through scientific achievement.