Space travel from your armchair thanks to the EFPL –

EPFL astrophysicists and computer scientists have developed an astrophysical data visualization tool that can be adapted to virtual reality (VR) equipment. This allows you to travel to the limits of your sitting position comfortably on your couch.

Called VIRUP, the “Virtual Universe Project” for “Virtual Universe Project”, this powerful open source software creates a virtual universe in real time based on the most detailed contemporary cosmological and astronomical data, the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) said Tuesday. a statement.

Astronomers and astrophysicists have been collecting data on billions of celestial objects in the night sky, on Earth and in space with telescopes for decades.

Generating a representation in real time, as if one were an observer at any point in space and time, is exactly what astrophysicist Yves Revaz at the Astrophysics Laboratory set out to do. Assisted by EPFL’s (LASTRO), computer engineer Florian Cabot.

>> EPFL Presentation Video:

“Astro physical data accessible to all”

For VIRUP, 90 images per second were to be generated with terabytes of data. This constraint meets the requirements of the virtual reality environment to provide a fluid and immersive experience.

“The visualization of astronomical data is much more accessible than graphs and figures. It helps to develop our intuition about these complex phenomena,” explains Yves Revaz, quoted in the press release.

“WIRP can make all this astrophysics data accessible to everyone. It will become more and more important as we build larger telescopes like the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which will generate enormous amounts of data”, the researcher says. .

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>> Read: EPFL joins giant International Radio Telescope SKA

impressive data set

For now, VIRUP can already see the data of eight banks. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey includes more than 50 million galaxies and 300 million objects in general. Data from Gaia shows more than 1.5 billion light sources in the Milky Way.

The Planck mission deployed a satellite that measured the first light after the Big Bang, called the Cosmic Diffuse Background. The Open Exoplanet Catalog collects various data sources on exoplanets. Other banks include a directory of approximately 3000 Earth-orbiting satellites, as well as textures to represent the objects.

>> Read: Planck satellite goes back to the time of the Big Bang

VIRUP also generates robust scientific simulations. We can think of a future collision with Andromeda, the neighboring galaxy of our Milky Way. You can also see vast chunks of the cosmic web – the massive filamentary structures that span the entire universe – and their formation over billions of years.

The Andromeda Galaxy, our Milky Way, is located at a distance of about 2.55 million light-years from the Milky Way. [Sebastian Voltmer / Leemage – AFP]

An in-house graphics engine

One of the main challenges is ensuring a smooth transition between the different databases, notes the EPFL. “We were thinking about using a graphics engine to visualize the data, but in the end I had to develop one specifically for this project,” says Florian Cabot.

This first version of VIRUP already allows visitors to visit the 4,500 exoplanets discovered so far, even if their appearance is the result of an artistic interpretation derived from observations. Next steps include drawing the edges of objects belonging to the Solar System, such as asteroids, as well as various galactic objects such as nebulae and pulsars.

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3 Dimensions, 360 Degrees

For a fully immersive experience, in 3D and 360 degrees, you need a virtual reality headset and a computer to start the VIRUP engine, as well as storage space.

For example, the VIRUP VR headset can generate virtual universes in environments other than planetarium domes. LASTRO and The . A transition became possible thanks to the cooperation between EPFL Experimental Museology Laboratory (EM+).

The show was presented in September at the Tokyo Science Museum’s Synera Dome and will be held at the Dubai World Expo from October 17 to 30 as part of the EPFL Virtual Space Tour.

ats / friend

To experience VIRUP in a dome, the next exhibition, “Cosmos Archeology: Exploration in Space and Time”, will open at the EPFL Pavilion on April 21, 2022.

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