The Virtual Starship

Traditionally astronomers have represented their data as two-dimensional images, often as Hammer-Aitoff projections of Earth’s sky. This tradition has continued even into the age of Gaia, which has provided us with vast 3D data sets.

In addition to the sky images, astronomers now sometimes use Gaia data to show top down orthographic maps projected from above the galactic plane, which is an improvement but still two dimensional.

This tradition is almost entirely created by the 2D world of scientific journals and websites in which most astronomers operate. It is not caused by technical limitations - not only have pdf documents and web sites supported high performance pseudo 3D graphics for some time now but virtual reality / mixed reality headsets now support true 3D parallax visualization with a separate image for each eye.

I have built a prototype virtual starship in Unity that will allow travelling to 40 different locations in the Milky Way, that will show immersive sky boxes and sky maps at each location.

Starship locations

In addition to a navigation bridge, the starship also includes exhibition halls with 3D displays. As an example, here is a 3D Hertzsprung-Russell diagram that adds mass to the usual temperature and luminosity dimensions.

3D HR diagram

The virtual starship is open for tours. If you have a Meta Quest headset, contact me and I can add you to the app access list.

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