Ideas list for ESA Summer of Code In Space

The  Reading e-Science Centre at the  University of Reading, UK, is applying to become a mentoring organization in the  ESA Summer of Code in Space programme. We hope to attract talented and motivated students to work on our open-source projects, which focus on environmental data visualization and the use of large, complex, multidimensional data in Geographic Information Systems.


The  Godiva2 web portal has proven to be a convenient and popular means to visualize multidimensional gridded datasets on the web, using a Google Maps-like interface and employing entirely open-source software. It frees the user completely from the need to download large datasets and interpret complex data and metadata structures. The system has been adapted for use in many projects and institutions, notably  MyOcean, the European Marine Core Service. Images are generated using  ncWMS, an open-source implementation of the  Web Map Service specification.

Currently the ncWMS/Godiva2 system is focused around gridded data, which includes the output of numerical simulations of the Earth system, as well as high-level satellite products (such as the  OSTIA sea surface temperature product, which can be viewed interactively  here).


All these projects require Java programming at an intermediate level. Experience of handling geographic data (particularly in NetCDF format) is advantageous but not necessary.

Project ideas

The following is a list of some ideas for student projects to develop and apply the capabilities of this system for the visualization of earth observation data. Students are also encouraged to provide suggestions. The projects are complementary to each other, but do not depend upon each other for success.

1. Interactive visualization of satellite data on the web

"Along-track" data are produced by non-geostationary satellites, which collect data in the form of swaths. Such satellites provide valuable data of a number of important environmental parameters, including sea surface temperature, ice thickness, atmospheric ozone and many more. Swath data currently cannot be handled in ncWMS or Godiva2 and would require the following tasks:

  • construction of a suitable abstract data model for representing along-track data;
  • the writing of file-format readers for a number of common file formats including emerging  CF-NetCDF standards;
  • rendering data into images for map overlays; and
  • adaptation of the Godiva2 user interface.

A successful outcome would be likely to lead to the resulting code being adopted in high-profile projects such as MyOcean, which currently lacks a means to visualize along-track data.

Requirements: Java programming at an intermediate level. Experience of handling geographic data (particularly in NetCDF format) is advantageous but not necessary.

2. Interactive visualization of satellite data using the NASA World Wind virtual globe

 NASA World Wind is a high-performance virtual globe and software development kit that has been customized for use in a number of areas of environmental science. Many environmental data providers (including ESA) are now providing data in NetCDF format, but World Wind currently lacks strong support for this format. This project would link World Wind to the "engine" of the ncWMS software to enable World Wind to display multidimensional NetCDF data from Earth Observation satellites and numerical simulations. This project will link with efforts that NASA is coordinating in this area.

Requirements: Intermediate Java programming skills. Some knowledge of 3D graphics programming may be an advantage although is not required.

3. Interactive visualization of satellite data on the ISIC videowall and CAVE

The newly-established International Space Innovation Centre ( ISIC) is a centre where government, universities and industry can work together to drive innovation and enterprise, creating new technologies and developing applications based around space. The ISIC facilities include a 30 megapixel videowall that is used to display the information that is retrieved by Earth Observation satellites alongside other datasets, helping to communicate complex concepts and generating new scientific insight.

This project will enhance the interactive display capabilities of the ISIC videowall by employing and developing open-source software (including perhaps ncWMS and NASA World Wind) in order to allow a much wider range of data to be displayed on this unique facility, using both virtual globes and flat-map displays. There will be a particular focus on ensuring that ESA data can be accessed and displayed.

Depending on the interests of the student, this project could also encompass elements of data processing using the powerful compute cluster that is attached to the videowall, and/or visualization of data on the University of Reading's immersive CAVE visualization facility.

Requirements: Strong programming skills required (probably Java and/or C++, depending on the solution decided upon). Experience of 3D graphics programming would be advantageous. Experience of parallel processing may be advantageous if the project ends up with a significant data-processing slant.