Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland has in a new technological breakthrough concocted a virtual map that allows visits via the cosmos, past the Moon, Saturn, over galaxies and the International Space Station.
The developed program dubbed the ‘Virtual Reality Universe Project’, (VIRUP) strings together the largest data set of the universe to bring about three-dimensional, panoramic visualizations of space.
The EPFL Software engineers, astrophysicists and experimental museology experts in synergy built the virtual map that can be accessed and viewed through individual VR gear, immersion systems like panoramic cinema with 3D glasses, planetarium-like dome screens, or just on a PC for two-dimensional viewing.
The Director of the Astrophysics Laboratory at the EPFL, Jean-Paul Kneib affirmed the importance of the new program when he said:
“The novelty of this project was putting all the data set available into one framework, when you can see the universe at different scales — nearby us, around the Earth, around the solar system, at the Milky Way level, to see through the universe and time up to the beginning — what we call the Big Bang”.
Let’s have some imagination: A kind of illusion license you say when you think of a Google Universe? Well, at a time standing on a podium and seeing yourself almost immediately on a big screen appear an illusion when the idea makers came up with it. Such may suffice here.
It is known that Computer algorithms produce terabytes of data and churn up images that appear about three feet or almost infinitely away, akin to you sitting back and looking at the entire universe.
The Virtual Reality Universe Project, although accessible freely for everyone, will require at least a PC and is best viewed with 3D capabilities or some sort of VR equipment. The VIRUP aims to draw in scientists who may be looking to view the data currently on collection and also a broader public seeking to virtually explore the heavens.
The Beta version, a work in progress cannot be adequately run on a Mac PC, with the having to download the software and content will be burdensome for the average computer user and space on a computer will count. A more comprehensive public version of the content contains a reduced-size version that its best of highlights is the fact that it can be quantified in gigabytes, although astronomy buffs with higher computer memory may have the capacity to download more.
The researchers assembled information from 8 different databases, counting at least four thousand exoplanets, tens of millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of space objects in all, and more than 1.5 billion light sources from the Milky Way alone.
There may be no limit to harnessing potential data, with future databases having the likelihood of including asteroids into the solar system or objects like nebulae and pulsars farther into the galaxy.
The team at EFPL believes VIRUP will go further and wider than the previous cosmos gazing stints of NASA for example and Russia’s SpaceEngine, with data collected from sources like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the United States, and 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 synergized in a one-stop-shop for the most extensive data sets available.
Can you have the imagination of floating through small dots of light that constitutes galaxies as if the viewer is an unconscionably large giant floating in space? Such is the possibility.
EPFL astrophysicist, Yves Revazn not letting go of the importance said:
“That is a very efficient way of visiting all the different scales that compose our universe, and that is completely unique. A very important part of this project is that it’s a first step toward treating much larger data sets which are coming.”
All the galaxies appear to be tied together by strands or filaments of light, akin to neural connection representation that hitherto link up light clusters.
“We actually started this project because I was working on a three-dimensional mapping project of the universe and was always a little frustrated with the 2D visualization on my screen, which wasn’t very meaningful,” said Kneib, in a nondescript lab building that houses a panoramic screen, a half-dome cinema with bean-bag seating, and a hard-floor space for virtual-reality excursions.
“It’s true that by showing the universe in 3D, by showing these filaments, by showing these clusters of galaxies which are large concentrations of matter, you really realize what the universe is,” he added.