StarCat is a star mapping tool capable of visualizing and allowing you to travel among tens of thousands of stars. It uses a custom 3D graphics engine and runs on any operating system capable of hosting a Java 1.6 or later JVM (runs great with Java 1.7)
At this time the Java version of StarCat is the only one available for you to play with. It's rather raw and incomplete, but should give you an idea where StarCat is headed. There are two ways to get a taste of this:
NOTE: In either case, you must have Java 1.6 (or later) installed.1
Everybody loves screenshots, so I hope to put some up Real Soon Now™ For what it's worth, the image near the top of this page is a screen shot.
StarCat makes only a linguistic distinction between stars, planets, moons, asteroids, etc. In essence they are distinguished by the amount of energy they emit (stars emit energy, planets don't), what their surface looks like, and what kind of atmosphere they have. StarCat does not care that Pluto is small, dingy, and that it has a goofy orbit: Planet, Dwarf Planet, Ball of Ice, or Object of Intense Debate, for StarCat it's just a Satellite of the Sun.
StarCat provides a 3D view of the universe (the star systems you've loaded for display). You can roate the view, change the center of the view to any star, and zoom in & out. There is also a 2D sectional view of any given star system, with the system's bodies laid out in a line; some aspects of the system, mainly orbital parameters, can be manipulated directly in that view.
Arbitrary data can be attached to any system or body, including free-form notes, images, references to external data, etc. The idea is that StarCat can capture whatever data you want to keep. For those interested in maintaining fictional data, StarCat supports the creation of travel routes between systems, flexible travel times, and boundaries of influence to help map the boundaries of star-spanning empires.
StarCat maintains all of its data in gzip-compressed XML files. No matter the future of StarCat, your data will always be available to you by way of uncompressing and perusing the human-readable XML.
Physical units (radius, mass, period of rotation, etc.) can be entered in Earth or Solar units, or in real-world measurements.
On a i7-920 computer with nVidia GeForce 9800GT graphics card and Java 1.7, StarCat can render almost 1 million star systems per second2. I've seen performance as bad as 10% of that on some systems; what JVM you are running, your CPU, and your graphics system will all be determining factors, so your mileage may vary as they say.
Note: An experimental implementation in C++ demonstrated no speed advantage whatsoever over Java in the 3D rendering department; only the performance of the GUI components was snappier with Qt.
Although many of the computations are rooted firmly in science and what we know about the universe today, StarCat is not necessarily an expression of scientific rigour:
|Description:||A star catalog and 3-dimensional (3D) visualization tool.|
|License:||Free as in Beer|
|Launch (web):||Launch StarCat (1.0KiB) using Java WebStart|
|Launch (shell):||java -jar starcat.jar|
|Documentation:||sol.sc.gz (1.4KiB) (our solar system)|
hipparcos10.sc.gz (17.5KiB) (183 stars w/in 10pc)
hipparcos25.sc.gz (135.9KiB) (1550 stars w/in 25pc)
hipparcos50.sc.gz (574.2KiB) (7059 stars w/in 50pc)
hipparcos.sc.gz (8.7MiB) (113711 stars)
Note: The hipparcos files are extremely limited extracts from the real thing and should NOT be used for any purpose other than loading into StarCat. My extraction software is still rather limited, and there are no guarantees that any of the data in these catalogs is accurate, complete, or useful in any other way. I'm serious!
As of April 2012, the following reflects my hopes and aspirations, but as time has proven repeatedly, this schedule is likely to slip and slip again:
Version 0.4 (+3 Months)
Version 0.5 (+2 Months)
Version 0.6 (+2 Months)
Version 0.7 (+2 Months)
Version 0.8 (+3 Months)
Version 0.9 (+4 Months)
Version 1.0 (+1 Month)
Once the softwre is complete, StarCat will be released in source form, licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) Version 3; if you are itching to help out before that, drop me a line and I'll see what we can work out.
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