In 1983 John Walker drew The Solar System to scale in AutoCAD-86. It was a demonstration of AutoCAD’s floating point database resolution and I remember being shown it when I was at Tech. Everyone was amazed at the precision as they zoomed from Pluto’s orbit down to a plaque on the leg of the Lunar Lander, Eagle, with readable text.
That was a long time ago but I remembered it tonight as experienced similar amazement when I watched Celestia in action. It’s a free real-time 3D space simulation, for Windows/Mac/Unix, which lets you travel through our solar system and to over 100,000 stars in our neighbourhood.
Once installed (approx 11mb download) I recommend you start off with the Demo Tour launched from the Help Menu. The screen-shot (Earth with New Zealand orbited to centre stage) gives an idea of the display quality you’ll see but prepare to be amazed as you zoom from the Earth to the Moon, then the Sun, Saturn & its Moons. Its then back to Earth for a short tour of the Northern and Southern hemisphere night sky with stars and constellations on display. Next a very quick trip across the universe to the giant red star Antares, a brief look at the Milky Way from a distance, then home to earth again.
Now its your turn to explore the 3d photo real accurate celestial model as you wish. Its simple to use, but information rich and stunning to look at, with comprehensive options that will keep your amused for hours. Thanks to the authors: Chris Laurel, Clint Weisbrod,,Fridger Schrempp, Bob Ippolito, Christophe Teyssier, Hank Ramsey, Grant Hutchiso and many others who contributed to this excellent software.
*Note: Shaan Hurley has the AutoCAD file mentioned, solar-1.dwg, available for download in AutoCAD 2004 format and more information on AutoCAD 64 bit precision on his AutoCAD Blog – Between the Lines.