Northern Lights

Interactive viz

N is for North Pole

Inspiration for this weeks viz came from Tableau Zen legend Lorna Brown. I had a few ideas and had mocked up a quick viz (see bottom of blog), but I was running a little light on data to pad my idea out. I reached out to Lorna to see if she had any ideas for the theme N is for North pole, and she quickly pinged me some initial thoughts: Animals, Northern lights, Temperature changes, and we explored a few websites for potential inspiration AND data….

I slept on it and woke up in the am with a seemingly great idea… A Northern lights animation…. and I even knew how I would go about it – Bonza

I’m a big fan of the Northern lights spectacular and only last week had my wife and I being discussing bucket list trips (dreaming of a life post lock down) and our desire to head to Northern Scandinavia to experience the spectacle. So the research for this one has been soo much fun. I thoroughly recommend the site for tangible explanations of all things spacey and I’m elated to understand a little more about what causes the Northern Lights to happen.

I LOVE THIS #Alphabetproject 🙂

Here is what I came up with

Unfortunately, I am still wrestling with the Tableau Animations on Tableau Public and is therefore not quite working as planned (due to the volume of data points in the viz), but if animations were to work like pages, here is a gif of the viz I wanted people to experience!

If your interested download it off Tableau public, turn off animations and have a play on desktop.


Resources and reading

Data sources for this viz

Key Techniques for this viz

  • I used George Gorczynski’s Pointillism in Tableau technique – Photo Art in Table which uses the Sketch python script to process .pngs and spit out X Y coordinates into an csv file.
  • To get the effect of the sky moving I screenshot 10 frames of a video of the northern lights. Processed the .png in to resize the image to a manageable size for ‘Sketch’ (NOTE the X Y coordinates are generated per pixel so the X Y range will reflect the size of your .png). Then for each of the 10 datasets I added a column to denote which frame it came from (1-10) and then joined the datasets in Tableau. This ‘frame’ field is added to pages to enable the animation feature on Tableau to give the effect of the sky moving.
  • Mapbox to integrate the map into the colour scheme of the viz
  • KML file of the visible paths of the Kp-Index across the globe.
  • Text for title and left hand pane generated in MS Power point and then brought in as an .png


Thanks for reading, any questions or feedback most welcome, please get in touch.

Stay tuned for Laura’s take on ‘is for North Pole’ next week on her blog

However before you head back to twitter to see what else the Tableau community has been up to, I thought I would also share this viz about the Narwhal which I made whilst exploring the topic of N is for North Pole. I abandoned it fairly early on as I couldn’t really find much data about the wonderful unicorn of the sea , so whilst I think its fairly creative I thought I could come up with something with a little more sparkle.

That said I still think its pretty cool, so i’m adding it to the blog for those that do make it to the bottom….

N is for North Pole_Narwhal