russell j. hewett

assistant professor

mathematics & CMDA

A Survey of Computational Tools in Solar Physics


The SunPy Project developed a 13-question survey to understand the software and hardware usage of the solar-physics community. Of the solar-physics community, 364 members across 35 countries responded to our survey. We found that 99±0.5% of respondents use software in their research and 66% use the Python scientific-software stack. Students are twice as likely as faculty, staff scientists, and researchers to use Python rather than Interactive Data Language (IDL). In this respect, the astrophysics and solar-physics communities differ widely: 78% of solar-physics faculty, staff scientists, and researchers in our sample uses IDL, compared with 44% of astrophysics faculty and scientists sampled by Momcheva and Tollerud (2015). 63±4% of respondents have not taken any computer-science courses at an undergraduate or graduate level. We also found that most respondents use consumer hardware to run software for solar-physics research. Although 82% of respondents work with data from space-based or ground-based missions, some of which (e.g. the Solar Dynamics Observatory and Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope) produce terabytes of data a day, 14% use a regional or national cluster, 5% use a commercial cloud provider, and 29% use exclusively a laptop or desktop. Finally, we found that 73±4% of respondents cite scientific software in their research, although only 42±3% do so routinely.

All publications
Solar Physics