You Can Now Explore And Torrent The Galaxy In Your Web Browser


Short Bytes: Gazing at the stars is a soothing experience for everyone. Masscussettes-based programmer Charlie Hoey has created a 3D simulation of around 2 million stars from the data gathered by the ESA Gaia satellite. The 3D star map has accurate positions of all the stars. Hoey is also working on a VR-version of his star map.

Torrenting isn’t about sharing and downloading pirated stuff all the time. There are some intelligent minds who know how to make the best use of such good technology at our disposal.

So, how about watching the stars using the torrent network? You can check the 3D map Charlie Hoey has hosted on WebTorrent. Hoey has created a WebVR enabled 3D map of stars from the data released by the Gaia satellite of the European Space Agency.

He managed to get the correct 3D positioning of around 2 million stars (2,026,095 to be precise at the time of writing). However, this is only a small amount of the data collected by Gaia. Also, he was able to shrink down the data size from hundreds of GBs (in CSV files) to a mere 24 MB on WebTorrent.

You can spend a considerable amount of time on Hoey’s star map, dragging, zooming through million stars right on your web browser. “To my knowledge, this is the first real-time 3D simulation of the data from the Gaia project, though other WebGL visualizers for astronomical data have come before,” he told TF.

“For me, seeing the positions of stars in 3D makes them feel less like abstractions and more like real, tangible places in space. It also makes earth feel small and far away and insignificant, which in 2016 is a warm, calming sensation.”

He used WebTorrent because if his creation goes viral, it would be hard for him to manage heavy traffic and shell out money for it. “I didn’t want to be on the hook to pay for a CDN if it got popular, but I also didn’t want people to have a bad experience if there were bursts of visitors. WebTorrent was kind of a perfect fit,” Hoey said.

The torrent platform makes the consumers the distributors of data. Bringing it to the web browser is an added advantage and facilitates ease of access.

Hoey is also working on a new VR experience project called Up There. This would take people on step closer to how to observe the Milky Way. It will be a data simulation allowing you to interact with 1,00,000 stars in 3D. Using the Galactic Query Console, you’ll be able to filter and sort the stars as the way you like. Touching an individual star would let you know some information about it. Up This could be available sometime in early 2017 on HTC Vive followed by Oculus Rift.

Check out Charlie Hoey’s Gaia 3D star map and explore the stars. You can also read his Medium post for more details on how he created the 3D simulation.

Here is a video of the Up There VR experience:

If you have something to add, tell us in the comments below.

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