Towards infinity and beyond | Borneo Bulletin Online
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND (AP) – The Last Frontier has rarely seemed closer than this – at least virtually.
Researchers from one of the best Swiss universities on Tuesday released open source beta software that allows virtual tours across the cosmos, including to the International Space Station, beyond the Moon, Saturn or exoplanets, above galaxies and far beyond.
The program – called the Virtual Reality Universe Project (VIRUP) – brings together what researchers call the largest dataset in the universe to create three-dimensional panoramic visualizations of space.
Software engineers, astrophysicists and experts in experimental museology from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, or EPFL, came together to concoct the virtual map that can be viewed through individual VR equipment, immersion systems such as panoramic cinema with 3D glasses, planetarium-style dome screens, or simply on a PC for two-dimensional viewing.
“The novelty of this project was to bring together all the available datasets in one frame, where you can see the universe at different scales – near us, around the Earth, around the solar system, at the level of the Way. milky, to see through the universe and time to the beginning – what we call the Big Bang, ”said Jean-Paul Kneib, director of the EPFL astrophysics laboratory.
Think of a kind of Google Earth – but for the universe. Computer algorithms produce terabytes of data and produce images that can appear to within a meter, or almost to infinity, as if you are sitting down and looking at the entire observable universe.
VIRUP is available to everyone for free – although it requires at least a computer and is best viewed with VR gear or 3D capabilities. It aims to attract a wide range of visitors, both scientists looking to visualize the data they continue to collect and a large audience looking to virtually explore the skies.
Still a work in progress, at this time the beta cannot be run on a Mac computer. Downloading software and content can seem expensive to less skilled computer users, and space – on a computer – will count.
The consumer version of the content is a scaled-down version that can be quantified in gigabytes, sort of a best-of. Astronomy enthusiasts with more PC memory might choose to download more.
The project brings together information from eight databases that include at least 4,500 known exoplanets, tens of millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of space objects in total, and more than 1.5 billion light sources from the world alone. Milky Way. 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 further in the galaxy.
Certainly, VR games and representations already exist: applications for observing the cosmos on tablets make it possible to map the night sky, with zoomed-in close-ups of celestial bodies; software like SpaceEngine from Russia offers visuals of the universe; NASA has created smaller VR expanses of space.
But the EPFL team said VIRUP goes much further and broader: data from sources such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the United States and the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to map the Way. Milky and her Planck mission to observe the first light of the universe, all brought together in one stop for the most comprehensive data sets to date.