Welcome to the Solar System Explorer! This app was built to be a realistic representation of our solar system. To get started, select an object set, time, and date and click the "Go!" button. The app queries NASA's JPL Horizons system and populates the three-dimensional space with all objects in the selected set, using their real positions at the specified date and time. The app includes 223 possible objects to simulate, including the Sun, 8 planets, 5 dwarf planets, and 209 total moons.
From there, click the play/pause button to run or pause the simulation. The app calculates realistic gravitational interactions between all selected objects using Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation and uses these calculations to animate the objects on-screen. The speed of the simulation can be adjusted using the slider. The slider's full left position corresponds to approximately real-time movements, depending on the framerate of the animation. At any time, you can click an object or system in the right-side menu to get a view of that object or system.
Many of the solar system's smaller moons and dwarf planets are irregularly shaped, but they are represented as ellipsoids in this simulation for the sake of simplicity. Additionally, texture maps are only available for the Sun, planets, and some of the larger moons. Objects without available texture maps are simply represented as white ellipsoids.
Please note: Object sets with large numbers of objects may take some time to load, and may also lead to reduced framerate and/or reduced simulation accuracy when used in combination with high simulation speeds. This is particularly an issue with the "Full solar system" and "Outer solar system" object sets, which contain 223 and 215 objects respectively.
About the app
Solar System Explorer was developed by Jason McGinty.
NASA JPL Horizons queries are performed using the astroquery Python module.
Gravitational forces between objects are calculated using Barnes-Hut approximation.
Object textures were obtained from JHT's Planetary Pixel Emporium when available.
Remaining object textures were obtained from Steve Albers' Planetary Maps page and Solar System Scope.
Milky Way background texture was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.
Please feel free to contact Jason on LinkedIn with any feedback or suggestions!