Space Engine Zen

Space Engine is an absolutely jaw dropping space exploration experience for free. Being able to see what a lunar eclipse looks like from the surface of the moon, explore the surface of Pluto using the latest observations from the New Horizons spacecraft, and seeing accurately modeled solar systems for exoplanets are just the tip of the iceberg here. You truly get a supreme sense of scale for how big the universe is by navigating between planets or galaxies here.

I wanted to capture the beauty aspect of Space Engine, but also some of that cosmic hugeness. I toyed around with varying speeds, lighting effects, and objects and started recording. The idea here was to make videos that can be visually appealing, enjoyed over time, and give some sort of sense of scale to the universe. Something like a cosmic screensaver.

Why no audio? Part of the beauty of space exploration for me is the desolation and emptiness of the universe. Space Engine does come packaged with an astounding soundtrack which does make exploring the universe a very Carl Sagan-esque, buoyant, and transcendent experience. But music means different things for different people.

The Space Engine soundtrack is great for my tastes, but music has personal connections and I feel that pure silence strikes a decent compromise between the cold brutal reality of space and allows others the freedom to impose their music over the views I’m presenting. Ambient white noise or other kinds of space engines make great background music as well.

There was a fun and terrifying moment when I was exploring some randomly generated solar system and was confused as to why I wasn’t moving around. Everything remained perfectly still and I thought something was wrong with my system until I checked my movement speed. I was only moving a pitifully slow 10,000 miles an hour. Even at that speed, giant planets and starts feel fixed and impenetrable. You get a sense of just how much bigger and distant everything is in the universe and how puny and powerless you feel. Space Engine provides the tools to experience the simultaneous awe and horror of space’s enormity.






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