The basic element of our site is a page describing an individual animation or related set of animations.In most cases, our animations are created in HD resolution, 1920x1080 or 1280x720 at 30 or 60 frames per second.Some of our old content is available as NTSC video resolution, 720 pixels wide and 480 pixels high at 29.97 frames per second (more details below).

The SVS does not fulfill requests for copies of the tapes in our library.On some of our animation pages, there is a direct link to a video distribution service from which tapes including some of our animations may be ordered.General information on this service can be found here.

View our tutorial for teachers!

To get a quick overview on how to download files and effectively search on our site, view this video.

High Definition Animations (MPEG-4s and MPEG-2s)

Almost all of our recent animations include a high definition MPEG-4 format. MPEG-4 movie files can be viewed using:

Some of our older animations also include a high definition MPEG-2 format. As a rule, these animations are either 1920 x 1080 x 30 frames/sec or 1280 x 720 x 30 frames/sec, and cannot be played without specialized hardware decoders. These animations are provided for specialized uses, such as museum displays or live presentations. To play movies of this format, try using MPlayer or Quicktime, linked above, as well as VideoLAN (Windows, MacOS X, Linux).

Old Animation Format

Older animation pages contain the entire animation in reduced resolution MPEG-1 format. Why MPEG-1? We needed to use a format with common viewers available for UNIX, Mac, and Windows systems. This format had to have a high level of compression and still have enough resolution to show the animation clearly. MPEG-1 satisfies these requirements.

There are two types of MPEG-1 formats used. Many of these older animations are digitized from the original video tapes at a resolution of 352 pixels wide by 240 pixels high by 29.97 frames per second. These pixels are not square, and the animations should be viewed at a 4 to 3 aspect, or 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high. A compliant MPEG viewer should handle this aspect change transparently. Some of our other older animations are digitized from the original animation frames and use square pixels at a resolution of 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high by 29.97 frames per second.

In addition so using Quicktime and MPlayer as MPEG-1 viewers, you can also use Windows Media Player (Windows or Mac). Some animation pages also have QuickTime preview versions, which can be viewed with the QuickTime viewer linked above.


Frames are accessible through the frames link on each animation detail page. We provide links to each file individually to allow for the greatest amount of flexibility for our users. Understandably, it is desirable to fetch more than one frame at a time.

There are currently three recommended tools for downloading multiple frames from our site:


Our animation pages usually display one or more small images in JPEG or PNG format that illustrate the content of the animation.Larger images are called print resolution images and are provided in TIFF format for downloading.Print resolution stills often have a size of 2560 pixels wide by 1920 pixels high, which is about 8.5 inches by 6.5 inches when printed at 300 dots per inch.

Digital Videos (DV) Files

DV is a standard format created for consumer digital camcorders, and the DV files on our website appear as a special form of QuickTime file. We offer these files for our older material for which the original frames are not available. DV files can be edited on a frame accurate basis, but are much larger and more inefficient than MPEG files (which can be hard to edit accurately).

If you want to simply play a movie, download one of the MPEG formats. If you want a high-quality, editable version of a movie, download the DV format version if it is available and the original frames are not offered.

You can find more information regarding digital video formats from Google.

ProRes Movies

To view this MPEG-4 movie, you must use QuickTime. Simply open QuickTime, and under Open/URL put in the full URL to the movie file.

See the sections below for specific tools you can use to download frames in bulk. Other browser extensions should work just as well. We are no longer supporting WebDav.

Using Chrome's Simple mass downloader

You need to use the Chrome browser in order to use this extension.

  1. Add the Simple mass downloader extension to your Chrome browser.
  2. After you add the extension, the next page you see will contain instructions for using the extension. Please read this page.
  3. While viewing a frames listing page on our site, right-click on the page and select "Add page links to list".
  4. In the pop-up window, make sure the extension that matches the frames extension is checked.
  5. Click "Download Now"

Using curl on the command line

If you do not already have curl installed on your system, download it here.

Basic command usage:

prompt> curl [options] url
  • url - the url you want to download. You can specify a numeric sequence using a range of numbers between brackets (see the example below).
  • [options] - a variety of option flags. We suggest using the options '-LO' which will follow links and will store your downloaded frames in the current directory as their original file names.

For example, suppose we wish to download a frame sequence from animation ID 3032 which is located at The frame files have the form cld_f.nnnn.png, where nnnn are the frame numbers ranging from 0060 to 0119. In the directory where you wish to place the frames, execute the following command:

prompt> curl -LO "[0060-0119].png"

This command will download each specified file in the given sequence if it exists.

If you would like to query our multimedia collection automatically, please use our search API to obtain a JSON response. For example, to get the 10 most recently released stories, request:

Filtering Results

Any GET request that is performed by the SVS search can be executed by our API by adding /apito the end of the URL path. For example, to obtain the stories containing the word Apollo using the regular search, request:

To obtain the same stories using the API, request:
More examples:

To obtain all of the stories released in the past month, request:

Of course, filters can be combined for futher filtering. For example, to obtain all of the stories which contain 4K movies and focus on Earth science, request:
Please refer to the filters on the SVS search page for a full listing of filter options.

Sorting Results

By default, the search sorts by release date. If a search term is given, you can choose to sort by relevance, or the strength of the match, using the sort_by parameter. The following sort options are available:

  • release_date - story release date, newest to oldest
  • id - story ID, lowest to highest
  • relevance - match relevance (only available if search term given), strongest to weakest

For example, to get the stories refering to climate change, ordered by relevance instead of release date, request:

Limiting Results

By default, the API will return 100 stories at a time. You can reduce the number of stories returned by providing the limit parameter. For example, to obtain the 15 most recent stories related to the LRO mission, request:

The maximum limit that can be specified is 2000. Specify limit=none or limit=all to view all of the results, though the maximum limit still applies.


The API will return at most the number of stories specified in the limit parameter, which again defaults to 100. The total number of results will be given in the count field. To obtain subsequent "pages" of stories, provide the offset and limit parameters. For example, to obtain the 20 most recent stories, request:

To obtain the next 20 most recent stories, request:

To obtain the next 20 most recent stories, request:

For convenience, this "next" URL will be given in the nextfield. next will be null if you are already viewing all of the results or the last page of the results.

Similarly, there is a previous field which gives the URL for the previous page of results, if applicable.

Data Specification

As an example, consider the following request:

At the time this documentation was written, this request would return the following JSON data:

    "count": 120,
    "next": "",
    "previous": null,
    "results": [
            "a_id": 4770,
            "title": "From Apollo Sites To The South Pole",
            "release_date": "2020-07-20T09:00:00-04:00",
            "vis_type": "SVS",
            "description": "The Apollo program landed six pairs of astronauts on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. All six landing sites are at low latitudes, near the equator. In this visualization, the Apollo sites are contrasted with the South Pole, an area with enormous potential for future exploration. Time passes as we zoom toward Shackleton crater at the South Pole, revealing illumination conditions quite different from those near the equator. While many craters remain in permanent shadow, some nearby mountains and ridges are in persistent sunshine, making them attractive candidates for solar power and long-term habitation.\n\nThe remaining visualizations on this page show the illumination at the lunar South Pole throughout 2024, at several different scales. The year begins in the middle of South Pole summer, with the subsolar latitude near its greatest southern extent. As the year progresses, the shadows begin to deepen until mid-year and South Pole winter, when the subsolar latitude is at its northern extreme. The full range of the Sun's apparent motion in latitude is only about 3 degrees, versus 47 degrees on Earth, but this is enough to have a substantial effect on the amount of sunlight reaching the lunar poles. Beginning on the near side of the Moon, with the Apollo sites marked, the view quickly moves to the South Pole and zooms in to show the changing illuminaton conditions there for an entire year. Illumination at the South Pole of the Moon for the year 2024, showing an area within 2 degrees of the pole. Available with and without annotations. Perspective projection: camera position (0, 0, −3rmoon), view direction (0, 0, 1), vertical field of view 2.00021°. Closer view of the illuminaton at the South Pole of the Moon for the year 2024. This is cropped from the 4K frames of the previous animation group. Illumination at the South Pole of the Moon for the year 2024, showing an area within 10 degrees of the pole. Major named craters are labeled and outlined. Available with and without annotations. Perspective projection: camera position (0, 0, −3rmoon), view direction (0, 0, 1), vertical field of view 10.06308°. Illumination maps of the lunar South Pole. The shades of gray depict the amount of sunlight received during 2024. The floors of many of the craters receive no sunlight at all — they're permanently shadowed. Conversely, a small number of high spots on mountains and crater rims are in persistent sunshine. These were made by integrating (adding together) the frames of the above visualizations.",
            "nasa_science_category": [
                "Planets & Moons"
            "preview_image": "",
            "url": ""
            "a_id": 13662,
            "title": "2020 Goddard Summer Film Fest Bonus Material",
            "release_date": "2020-07-14T08:00:00-04:00",
            "vis_type": "GMS",
            "description": " How to Animate the Universe Behind the Scenes of \"Launching Rockets Through the Leak in Earth's Atmosphere\" ENSO Teleconnections with Rift Valley Fever Visualization with Visualizer Commentary Apollo 13 Views of the Moon in 4K with Visualizer Commentary Behind the Scences of the NASA Explorers Digital Series with Producer Commentary",
            "nasa_science_category": [
                "Planets & Moons",
            "preview_image": "",
            "url": ""

Note that only the first two results are included for brevity.

The response will always contain the following fields:

  • count - The total number of results for the given query, regardless of which page or how many results are currently being shown.
  • next - The URL that will display the next page of results, using the same limit as the current request. This field will be null if all of the results are being shown, or if the final page of results is being shown.
  • previous - The URL that will display the previous page of results, using the same limit as the current request. This field will be null if all of the results are being shown, or if the first page of results is being shown.
  • results - An array of results objects (see below).
Result Object Fields

Each individual result object contains the following fields:

  • a_id - The story ID. The story page URL can be constructed as:
  • title - The title of the story.
  • release_date - The date and time (ET) the story was released.
  • vis_type - A string which indicates which studio created the material, or what product the material was created for. vis_type will always be one of the following:
    • SVS - The material was created directly by NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.
    • GMS - The material was created by NASA's Goddard Media Studios.
    • CILab - The material was created by NASA's Conceptual Image Lab.
    • NV - The material was created or formatted explicity for the NASA Visualization Explorer Apple/Android app, also known as NASAViz.
    • HW - The material was created or formatted explicity for the NASA Hyperwall.
  • description - The description of the story. The length of this description will vary greatly based on the page content.
  • nasa_science_category - The list of NASA Science categories that this page focuses on, of which there are four choices:
    • Earth
    • Sun
    • Planets & Moons
    • Universe
  • preview_image - The URL to the preview image of the story, as shown on the search page. This preview image will always be 320x180px.
  • url - The URL to the story page itself where full details and assets can be retrieved. Note: This URL is a regular HTML page meant to be rendered, but can be parsed for assets as needed until our JSON API is extended.

If you have additional questions as to how to use the SVS API, contact directly.

Animations, Images, Videos

Some multimedia products on this site are produced in collaboration with partners and have distinct copyrights and use policies. For those instances, the copyright notices and use limitations are noted on the page where you can download the product.

If there are no copyright and use limitations listed on the corresponding web page, these multimedia products are in the public domain and are free for use. When you use our products, please give credit according to the credit statement on the specific multimedia’s web page.

Science Stories

The science stories published on this site are produced in collaboration with other Goddard labs, other external science labs (Federal and non-Federal), and the Goddard Office of Communications. All science story credits are noted at the end of each science story.

Our Distinct Copyright and Credit Notices

American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Carolina Floods Survey (USGS)
Drought/National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency
Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter (MOLA)
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
Radarsat/Canadian Space Agency
Sea-viewing Wide Field of View Sensor (SeaWiFS)/ORBIMAGE
Stratospheric Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE)