With Virtual Planet, the user can travel through a three-dimensional virtual solar system. The seamless simulation ranges from outer space street level. This not only allows you to explore the earth, but also to measure craters on the moon, identify rock strata on Mars, or assess future landing sites on other planets or moons in our solar system.
In particular, Virtual Planet enables the 3D visualization, analysis and presentation of large simulation and exploration data. In addition to surface data, atmospheric data can be analyzed in three dimensions or radar data can be used for subsurface evaluation.
The primary challenge for visualization is the high spatial and temporal resolution of the data. That's why we develop level-of-detail rendering techniques that reduce the amount of data necessary to draw the current scene. The goal is to ensure high visual quality while optimizing performance.
The relative positions of the celestial bodies are calculated using the software library "SPICE" developed by NASA. On the one hand, this allows easy integration of data from current and past space missions, and on the other hand, the calculation of light and shade based on the position of the sun at the current simulation time. This opens up further fields of application for Virtual Planet. For instance, the software may used to generate synthetic camera images for the evaluation of optical navigation systems based on crater shadows.