StarFlight: An Interactive VR Exploration of the Three-Dimensional Nature of Constellations

Project Description

StarFlight is an interactive 3D virtual reality exhibit that provides an interactive exploration of the Orion, Ursa Major and Scorpius constellations. Users can view the constellations from Earth or from outer space. StarFlight's virtual outer space is a visualization of the Hipparcos star catalog. Hipparcos, a satellite operated by the European Space Agency from 1989-1993, catalogued the position of nearly 120,000 stars in our galaxy.

Constellations are groups of stars that appear to form shapes in the night sky. Observed from a different vantage point in outer space, however, the stars no longer appear aligned, but random and disassociated— an illusion versus reality. For example, the stars that comprise the Big Dipper, an asterism in the Ursa Major constellation, are separated by many light years.

StarFlight was developed by the University of Chicago's Center for the Presentation of Science with funding from the National Science Foundation, and in collaboration with University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory.

Development team:
Keith Vanderlinde
Timothy Donaghy
Staci Willis
Nicholas Schwarz
Project leads:
Brenda López Silva
James Sweitzer
Additional support:
Leo P. Kadanoff, University of Chicago
Brett Nicholas and Brian Wunar, Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL
Carina Eizmendi and Ronen Mir, SciTech Hands-On Museum, Aurora, IL
Brian Abbott, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
Robert Kooima, Lance Long and Laura Wolf, Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago