The final frontier wasn’t too close, at least nearly.
Researchers from one of Switzerland’s leading universities launched on Tuesday software An open source beta that allows virtual tours of the universe, including the International Space Station, the Moon, Saturn, the outer planets, galaxies and beyond.
The program, called the Virtual Reality Universe Project (VIRUP), uses what scientists call the largest data set in the universe to create 3D panoramic views of space.
Software engineers, astrophysicists and experimental museology experts from EPFL have collaborated to create a virtual map that can be viewed through individual VR equipment and immersion systems such as panoramic cinema with 3D glasses and dome-shaped displays in the shape of a planetarium or on a device. A computer for a two-dimensional display.
“The novelty of this project was to put all the available data in a frame, where you can see the universe at different scales: near us, around the Earth, around the solar system, at the level of the Milky Way, to see the universe through Astronomy in EPFL: “The Universe and Time to the Beginning, What We Call the Big Bang.”
It’s like Google Earth, but it’s for the universe. Computer algorithms process terabytes of data and produce images that can appear a meter (3 feet) away, or nearly infinitely far away, when one looks at the entire visible universe.
VIRUP is free for everyone, although it requires at least one computer and is best viewed using VR or 3D-enabled equipment. The goal is to attract a diverse group of visitors, from scientists who want to visualize data as it is collected, to the general public looking to explore space virtually.
Since this is still a work in progress, the beta cannot be used on Mac computers at this time. Downloading software and content seems cumbersome for less skilled users, and it will take up a lot of space on your computer. The version of the software intended for the general public is minimized, which can be quantified in gigabytes, and shows the most prominent details. Astronomers who have enough space on their computers can choose to download more.
The project collects information from eight databases containing at least 4,500 known exoplanets, tens of millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of space objects in total, and more than 1,500 million light sources from the Milky Way alone. But when it comes to potential data, the sky is literally the limit: future databases could include asteroids in our solar system or objects like nebulae and pulsars in the galaxy.
Virtual reality games and representations are already in place: universe observation apps on tablets allow mapping of the night sky, with close-ups of celestial bodies. There is also the Russian SpaceEngine program that offers views of the universe. and the NASA He made some virtual reality maps of space.
But the EPFL team says VIRUP goes further and broader: data from sources like the US’s Sloan Digital Sky Survey project, the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to map the Milky Way, and its Planck mission to observe the first light of the universe, all of them Combined at one point to obtain the most comprehensive data sets to date.
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