Tuesday, March 2, 2010

God for a day

Via Bad Astronomy, here's an awesome time-waster: model your own solar system!

Bad Astronomy's headline uses the phrase "destroyer of worlds" and that is the most frequent outcome when you first start tweaking parameters. Too much velocity and planetoids get flung into deep space; or collisions will wipe out one or more of your planetary bodies.* Fledgling gods need practice, too. Here are a couple of the more interesting systems I've generated so far.

In this one, the tiny blue body began as a moon of the heavy Planet Pink, but with a highly eccentric orbit. After a few circuits, its apogee fell at right angles to Pink's orbit, taking the Blue Moon so close to the sun that it was captured in the eccentric orbit that runs from the one o'clock position to seven o'clock. Not long after, the Pink skewed Blue's orbit again, this time into a more circular path. Since then, it's been pretty stable.

In this one, Blue's orbit around Pink also has high eccentricity, but is also smaller, so it doesn't get away. But the path is interesting: where the long axis of Blue's orbit lines up with Pink's orbital path, a curlicue path results, but at other positions it the loop disappears and Blue's path resembles a distorted sine curve.

Cool stuff, even better than Spirograph.

* Unfortunately, collisions aren't modeled - the smaller body just disappears, rather than adding a fraction of its mass to the larger body and then bouncing off in some other direction.

1 comment:

James Hanley said...

I keep losing my moons.