Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

One procedural universe, coming right up
January 6, 2014 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Space Engine is a free (but not open source) program that allows you to fly through vast reaches of the universe. Along the way, you'll see some pretty amazing vistas and probably want to take screenshots of them. It incorporates a good amount of real-world data about the solar system, exoplanets and the universe in general with procedural generation of everything we don't know.

It features pretty appropriate music -- very spacey and relaxing. Space Engine isn't really a game; there's no goal, save for exploring and seeing what you can find. It's easy to take screenshots from within the game, and you can also export planetary maps (handy in, for example, RPG use).
posted by jiawen (28 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

It's Windows-native, but I had no trouble getting it to run under Linux (using Wine). Space Engine resembles the open-source program Celestia, but the procedural generation makes the universe vastly deeper and richer. If the screenshots above have you wanting more, check the Space Engine sub-Reddit, or Scott Manley's video review of the latest release.
posted by jiawen at 11:29 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

i strongly approve of this.
posted by 3mendo at 11:44 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]

Alas, windows only
posted by rlio at 11:58 PM on January 6

Damn. Bummer about the Windows thing. This looks really neat.
posted by brundlefly at 11:59 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

Looks really cool!
posted by Kevin Street at 12:22 AM on January 7

Anyone remember Space Simulator from Microsoft? Similar conceit. You could fly to Mars. In real time.

Not a game, no.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:26 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

2) WANT with Oculus Rift!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:57 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]

Mac and Linux versions planned, according to the FAQ. I would imagine, since it uses OpenGL, that a cross-platform library is involved and porting would be easier than if it used Direct3D.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:26 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

...procedural generation of everything we don't know...

"Newton was right"
"Newton was probably one of them..."
posted by Devonian at 4:10 AM on January 7

Is this the app I'd want if I wanted to see how stars that (from Earth) appear to be close would actually look in relation to one another if you could stand back and look at them from various other angles? For example, could I fly around the main stars of the Ursa Major Moving Group to get a 3D model sense of which stars in it are actually relatively close to one another and which stars are actually a gazillion light years away and only look close from our angle?
posted by pracowity at 5:08 AM on January 7

pracowity, I'm pretty sure that the further you get from Earth, the more fictional the sky is going to be. For one thing, there's a lot of uncertainty in our measurements of how far away the stars are. For another, I doubt Space Engine can correctly adjust for all the light-speed delays. If you go instantly to Ursa Major Group, does it show you the positions of the stars "now" on Earth, or eighty years ago with corrections for all the differences in how long it takes light from each star to reach Ursa Major vs. how long it takes to reach Earth (all of which, again, have lots of uncertainty)?

(And are the Celestia forums really gone? Or are they just down? I asked a similar question over there a year or two ago.)
posted by straight at 6:30 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

Time to cue up the Vangelis and enter my Spaceship of Imagination!
posted by mazola at 6:39 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]

(and wait for the Mac version)
posted by mazola at 6:39 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

This is a Russian program. It has been certified clean by Softpedia however notice the date (April 2013) and version (9.7.0 Beta).. while the version available for download is 9.7.1 Beta. So basically there is no certification for the current version. I may download it to a computer that is not consequential.
posted by stbalbach at 6:40 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

Mac and Linux versions planned, according to the FAQ.

If I had a nickel...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:44 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]

Anyone remember Space Simulator from Microsoft? Similar conceit. You could fly to Mars. In real time.

So, who wants to help me throw an "MS Space Simulator For Hope" charity fundraiser?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:08 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for something like this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:35 AM on January 7

I used to run Celestia on large visualization walls to wow people. This looks like it would be even better for that! Thanks for the heads-up - I had seen it mentioned previously, but not delved into it.
posted by grajohnt at 8:39 AM on January 7

You can realtime it to Duna (Mars analogue) in Kerbal Space Program, or to any of the other dozen planets and moons, but since the point of KSP is not hardcore simulation, well, don't. There is the "Real Solar System" mod for KSP if you want to best of both worlds, but getting a spacecraft into orbit around planet Earth takes double the energy that an orbit over planet Kerbin does, so you have to really serious about mass efficiency during takeoff and ascent.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:42 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

This is a Russian program.

To be fair, "This is an American program" has about the same cachet of late.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:53 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]

You can realtime it to Duna (Mars analogue) in Kerbal Space Program

This is how I force myself to get things done on the weekend -- start a mission in KSP and don't touch the time warp button. To the Mun in realtime, and power cleaning my apartment along the way.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:06 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]

So, is Aldebaran really all lumpy like that?
posted by The Tensor at 9:48 AM on January 7

So, is Aldebaran really all lumpy like that?

Possibly much lumpier. (See also.)
posted by straight at 9:55 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]

pracowity, astrometry is a thing. there have been satellites whose purpose is only to accurately measure the distance to stars, such as Hipparcos. these projects have yielded huge databases which i assume programs like this, or perhaps celestia, use.

if you have an iPhone and get the Exoplanet app, you can see the constellations change as you pull away from the earth. the constellations are largely made up of nearby stars so i assume the distances to those stars are quite well known, possibly even before Hipparcos made its measurements.

edit: oh yeah - here is the latest iteration, Gaia
posted by joeblough at 7:48 PM on January 7

if you have an iPhone

Nope. No phone at all. Is there nothing for a laptop?
posted by pracowity at 11:47 PM on January 7

It occurs to me that I *still* have my copy of Microsoft Space Simulator 1.0 in the original packaging. And the strategy guide published for it. Good luck getting any so-called DOS box to accept it.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:03 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]

well celestia might be able to do it; not sure.
posted by joeblough at 7:04 PM on January 8

Yeah, it's pretty cool if you turn on the constellation lines in Celestia from a star many light years away from the Earth; it ends up looking like a bunch of claws converging on our Solar System. (But again you're seeing everything from an impossible point of view as if all the light from the galaxy's stars were arriving at that point at the same time it arrives at the Earth.)
posted by straight at 9:28 AM on January 9

« Older Shaylee is four years old, a native ASL signer, an...  |  I’m trying to build a jigsaw p... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments