AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 78 Informal Astronomy Programs
Poster, Thursday, June 3, 2004, 9:20am-4:00pm, Ballroom

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[78.04] Cosmic Atlas: A Real-Time Universe Simulation

K.C. Yu (Denver Museum of Nature & Science), N.E. Jenkins (Nebulus Design)

Cosmic Atlas is a software program produced at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to generate real-time digital content for the Museum's Gates Planetarium. Created by in-house staff, Cosmic Atlas is designed to be scientifically accurate, flexible, easily updated to stay current with new discoveries, and portable to multiple platforms. It is currently developed using desktop computers running a Linux OS, and is also installed on a multi-graphics pipe SGI visualization computer running the IRIX OS in the Gates Planetarium. The software can be used in real-time presentations via traditional ``star talks'' and classes, but can also be used to devise flightpaths, perform timeline-based editing, play back flightpaths in real-time, and save out image renders for creating video files to be shown on additional playback systems. The first version of the program is meant to replicate the functionality of a traditional optical-mechanical star ball, and hence creates a replica of the night time sky, with constellations, deep sky objects, and didactic information and grids. The Solar System is a realistic, three-dimensional, navigable simulation, updated with the latest moon and minor planet discoveries, and with motions over time determined by a customized orrery. Additional modules can show traditional astronomical imagery, including an application for loading in FITS files to create three-color composites. A three-dimensional model of the Milky Way is in development, populated with HIPPARCOS stars for the local galactic neighborhood, and with molecular clouds constructed from large-scale CO survey data; more distant regions are filled with statistically generated stellar and interstellar medium distributions.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: kcyu@dmns.org

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