About SOS Explorer

What is SOS Explorer?


Hilary Peddicord uses SOSx in the single screen
mode at Casey Middle School in Boulder, CO

SOS Explorer (SOSx) is a flat screen version of the widely popular Science On a Sphere® (SOS). The revolutionary software takes SOS datasets, usually only seen on a 6-foot sphere in large museum spaces, and makes them more accessible. Animated images such as atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown in SOSx, which explains sometimes complex environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

NOAA uses SOSx as an instrument to highlight and disseminate cutting edge science to the world through visualizations that show information provided by satellites, ground observations and computer models.

Features Include:

  • Easy to use touchscreen interface for maximum interactivity
  • Over 140 datasets, including real-time datasets with descriptions
  • Educational videos linked to specific datasets for deeper inquiry
  • Tours that create a narrative through the datasets and help users make connections
  • Analysis tools to easily measure, probe, and plot data from the visualizations
  • Immersive, first person experiences: walk on the Moon, pilot a submarine, or take cover from a tornado
  • Stunning graphics in beautiful 4k resolution
  • Dual screen or single screen configuration options
  • SOSx Tour Builder that allows for the addition of new datasets and the creation of tours
  • Virtual Reality add-on
  • 360 degree video content
  • International language support
  • Compatibility with interactive projectors, screens, tables, and smartboards

Dual Screen - Ideal for Exhibits

In the dual screen set-up, the interactive visualizations are displayed on the touchscreen and also mirrored on the large display for others to view. Colorbars, labels, and text boxes are shown on the large screen only, while the search window and other user interfaces show up only on the touchscreen. The result is an exhibit that can be controlled by one person and enjoyed by many. The equipment list includes everything required for this exhibit set-up.

Single Screen - Great for Classrooms

In the single screen set-up, everything fits on just one screen and the user can either use a keyboard and mouse or a touchscreen to control the software. In a classroom, the single screen can be displayed on a large television or projector for the whole class to see, making it the ideal teaching tool. The equipment for the single screen set-up varies based on your desired use. The equipment list includes everything required for the classroom set-up.

SOSx Tour Builder

SOS Explorer comes with the SOSx Tour Builder that allows for the addition of new content and the creation of custom tours. Tours allow you to tell a story with datasets and help users make tangible and understandable connections between the animations and their lives. Tours are scripted presentations that walk a user through the datasets using a storyline and a learning goal. These can include text, guiding questions, pop-up web content, videos, pictures/diagrams, and click-able place marks. The system comes with several tours crafted by NOAA and with the SOSx Tour Builder, you can create as many new tours as you like!

SOS Explorer, described above, is an exhibit-quality version and SOS Explorer Mobile, described below, is a free introductory app version.

What is SOS Explorer Mobile?

Explore Earth and space from anywhere!

SOS Explorer Mobile (SOSx Mobile) is a mobile app version of SOSx - now freely available for download - that allows users to explore a select group of SOS datasets and learn more, all from their mobile device! SOSx Mobile offers more than 100 datasets from NOAA, NASA, and academic institutions, including: climate models predicting the temperature of the Earth through 2100 for different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios; National Marine Sanctuaries' 360 degree underwater photographs in the Florida Keys; and the entire 2012 hurricane season, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria, from NOAA weather satellites.

Using their own personal mobile device, users have complete control over which visualizations they want to explore. The global visualizations can be viewed on a virtual globe or as a flat map at the press of a button. Visualizations are live streamed and cached for quick, high resolution playback. Colorbars, labels, and text boxes are displayed for explanation and can be moved, resized, and hidden by the user for better viewing. The search window slides into view when in use and then slips away for optimal interaction with the selected visualization.

Try it today!

What is different between SOS Explorer and SOS Explorer Mobile?

There are some key differences between SOS Explorer and SOSx Mobile. The table below highlights the major differences and can help you decide what version is right for you. For further clarification, email us at sos.explorer@noaa.gov

SOS Explorer Mobile

SOS Explorer

What do I need?

A mobile device - phone, tablet, Chromebook

Windows PC, Hi-Res Monitor, Touchscreen (Dual set up only)

What data is available?

100+ datasets (no real-time)

~ 160 including real-time

Can I choose the datasets?



Can I make my own tours?



Is it free?


No, contact us

Can I use it in my museum?



Can I use it in my school?



Check out this document to find out more about SOS Explorer and SOS Explorer Mobile capabilities and features.

SOS Explorer Video Gallery

To see both SOS Explorer and SOS Explorer Mobile in action, visit the SOS Explorer Video Gallery


SOS Explorer was developed by the Informatics and Visualization (IV) section of NOAA’s Global Systems Division, which is also the home of Science On a Sphere® (SOS, learn more here). Wanting to build off of the success of SOS and expand the reach of SOS into classrooms and homes as well as museums who don’t have the physical space for a full Science On a Sphere®, developers created a flat screen version of SOS called SOS Explorer (SOSx).

Several factors came together at the right time to lead to the development of SOSx. After field trips to see NOAA’s popular SOS, many teachers often asked how they could bring the same experience of viewing global data into their classrooms. Most of the teachers didn’t have a budget for installing SOS into their schools and needed other options. A flat screen version that could be displayed on computer monitors and projectors seemed like an obvious solution. At the same time, IV developers were working on Terraviz, a visualization engine that utilizes gaming technology to generate high resolution displays. As part of their work, they were using Terraviz to create a virtual globe that scientists could use to display and analyze global weather models. As the technology matured, it became clear that Terraviz could be used for both scientists and teachers. Two different products emerged - the NOAA Earth Information System (NEIS, learn more at http://esrl.noaa.gov/neis/) was developed for scientific use and SOS Explorer was developed for educational and public use.