The most detailed 3D map of the universe ever can be explored with virtual reality

The most detailed 3D map of the universe ever can be explored with virtual reality

The Virup open source program allows you to explore the universe through virtual reality. A useful project for those who do research but also for scientific dissemination purposes

(image: Epfl) A kind of Google Earth, but for the universe. This is the Virtual Reality Universe Project (Virup) developed by the astrophysics laboratory (Lastro) of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Epfl): a new program that returns as a virtual map (2D or 3D) terabytes upon terabytes of data collected by 8 databases, to graphically display 4,500 exoplanets, tens of millions of galaxies, hundreds of millions of space objects and billions of light sources. The software, currently only available in its beta version, is open source, therefore accessible to everyone with a computer and virtual reality devices for a more immersive experience.

Have you ever wanted to explore outer- space? Now you can, without leaving Earth, thanks to powerful, open-source beta software VIRUP that builds - in real-time - a virtual universe based on the most detailed contemporary astrophysical and cosmological data

- EPFL (@EPFL_en) October 12, 2021

“The novelty of this project was to put all the available datasets in a single structure, so as to see the universe at different scales: close to us, around the Earth, around the solar system, at the level of the Milky Way ”, explained Jean-Paul Kneib, director of Lastro. A way to see through space and time, going back to the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang, or going forward and seeing the future collision of the Milky Way with the nearby M31.

The idea of ​​its developers is to make Virup a truly usable tool for everyone. On the one hand, researchers can access it to view their subject matter, their data, in a form other than tables and graphs, to have support for the analysis of complex phenomena. On the other hand, anyone can immerse themselves in the exploration of the universe and feel a bit like an astronaut during a spacewalk, but at home.

The program allows you to see galaxies, exoplanets, asteroids, but also the cosmic network represented by filamentous structures extending across the universe. These are artistic graphic representations the more defined the more information is contained in the databases loaded on Virup. For this reason, in the future, integrating other archives and acquiring new data from the observation of the universe by the next telescopes, it could become even more detailed.

Virup can be used in virtual reality wearing VR glasses, for a fully immersive personal experience, 3D and 360 degrees. But it can also build a virtual universe in an environment, perhaps in a dome of a planetarium or inside a cave, for collective use.

A short film entitled Archeology of the light, a journey of about 20 minutes through our universe, from the solar system to the Milky Way, to the cosmic network and the residual radiation of the Big Bang. Already available on Youtube (also in VR if you have the supports), the exhibition Cosmos Archeology: Explorations in Space and Time will open on April 21, 2022 at the EPFL pavilions.

“It is showing the universe in 3D , by showing these filaments, by showing these clusters of galaxies which are large concentrations of matter, that you really realize what the universe is, ”concluded Kneib.

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