There’s a sad reality to face, my friends. The chances of any of us living to see the fantastic future science fiction has promised us, with sightseeing trips to the rings of Saturn and easy transport to distant star systems, probably isn’t going to happen within our lifetimes. Sure, there are exciting developments in space exploration happening all the time, whether it’s private companies like SpaceX or the Curiosity rover that’s about to touch down on Mars next week, but our dreams of warping around the galaxy have never seemed so distant. Thankfully you can get a taste of what it might be like to travel the cosmos courtesy of a frankly amazing bit of software called SpaceEngine.
That video is just a small demonstration of what the SpaceEngine software is capable of. The free – yes, free – space simulator uses real astronomical data to let you “explore the universe in three dimensions, starting from planet Earth to the most distant galaxies.” In other words, you can venture through known space, and where real data is available, SpaceEngine will simulate what those distant star systems are really like.
So what happens if you venture into areas of space that we don’t have enough information to model? In that case SpaceEngine generates content procedurally, essentially making a “best guess” as to what those regions are like. It’s all here: “planets, moons, asteroids, stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.” It is as close to truly exploring the galaxy as most of us will ever get.
If your inner space junkie is already salivating, you can download SpaceEngine for free from their website. There are some hefty system requirements, however. You’ll need at least a 2 GHz CPU, with 2 GB RAM, a 512 MB video card, and Windows XP. The recommended specs bump that up to a 3GHz CPU, 2 GB RAM, a 1024 MB video card, and Windows 7.
Download a copy and let’s see what’s out there.