Exploring space in VR is always a thrill. But what if we can explore the cosmos in the most accurate way possible? Well, that’s what Vladimir Romanyuk had in mind and has launched something called SpaceEngine for VR.
SpaceEngine is stated as a 1:1 scale science-based Universe simulator, featuring billions upon billions of galaxies, nebulae, stars, and planets, all shown at their full real-world scale. In the simulator you’ll have the chance to explore Earth and our neighboring worlds in the Solar System, orbit a black hole in a galaxy billions of light-years away, or visit anything in between seamlessly, with no transitions.
All types of celestial objects are represented: galaxies, nebulae, stars and star clusters, planets and moons, comets and asteroids. Known celestial objects are represented using data from catalogs: galaxies (NGC/IC), stars (HIPPARCOS), star clusters, nebulae, and planets (Solar System and known extrasolar planets). Regions of space not yet cataloged feature procedurally generated objects: galaxies, stars, star clusters, nebulae, and planetary systems.
You are free to move around the universe – travel seamlessly between any object and any distance, from surface to orbit to interstellar and intergalactic space. Moving through space is as easy as “click and go”, as well as game-style free flight using the WASD keys or a gamepad. Also, time travel is possible: you can accelerate, decelerate, or reverse the flow of time, and jump to a specified date. Detailed interactive tutorials will familiarize you with the controls.
Volumetric 3D models of galaxies and nebulae with interstellar dust clouds, and 3D landscapes on planets and stars. For many Solar System bodies, actual data from space probes is used, with huge, high-resolution texture packs available as free DLC. For unmapped and procedural planets, the surface is generated procedurally using your computer’s GPU. Other features include realistic atmospheric scattering, eclipse shadows, animated auroras and comet tails, and physically-based light warping near black holes and neutron stars, with animated accretion disks and jets.
Built-in tutorials will help you start using the Planetarium. Search for celestial objects by name and search for the nearest star systems. Browse the cosmos using a scalable Universe map and planetary system chart. Saving, exporting, and importing of locations is supported, which can easily be shared between users. The program keeps an automatic journal of objects you have recently visited. Learn every detail about the objects you find using the built-in “Wiki” info system, with additional hand-written descriptions of many known objects. Display the orbital paths of celestial objects, labels and markers, constellations, and other informational tools.
SpaceEngine supports creating and importing user add-ons: catalogs, models and textures for deep space objects, planets, and space ships. Spacecraft models, representing both real and fictional designs – including from popular sci-fi franchises – are commonly imported and shared by the community, both here on Steam and on the official SpaceEngine forum.
You can pick up SpaceEngine for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on Steam. The VR simulator is currently available for $18.74.