The impressively huge space game Elite Dangerous uses procedural techniques to simulate our entire galaxy using it's inbuilt Stellar Forge and current understanding of star and planet formation to create an approximation of what solar systems throughout the Milky Way may consist of. It's clever, very clever.
However, the most impressive thing so far is how closely the game was to reality with this weeks NASA announcement of the discovery of SEVEN temperate Earth-like worlds around the star Trappist-1 40 light years away.
While in the current version of the game, Trappist-1 isn't actually present, there IS a procedurally generated system in a VERY similar location (39 light years away) which happens to feature seven Earthlike planets. It's not perfect - the system in the game is a Brown Dwarf which is smaller, but similar in brightness to Trappist-1's M8. The system in the game also features "a couple of moons, and a couple of co-orbiting binary pairs". According to a statement released by the game's creator David Braben, "these things would not (yet) be detected in the occlusion technique, as this is simply detecting the darkening of the stellar disc, but who knows, this might be possible."
The next beta release of the game will be tweaked to reflect the recent discovery with the star in the game, Core Sys Sector XU-P A5-0, being renamed to Trappist-1 and with the new data on known planets being used to inform the detail in the game.
Read David Braben's full statement...
The recent announcement of the discovery of the Trappist 1 system is exciting. The star, an M8 dwarf red star is right at the bottom end of the M class stars, so faint it is only just visible in the most powerful telescopes, and doesn’t feature in most star catalogues for this reason. Luckily, though, the system is almost exactly ‘edge on’ from our viewpoint – which means it is possible to ‘see’ the planets as they occlude the tiny star, and an incredible seven terrestrial planets have been spotted around the star by this technique, three of them in the ‘habitable zone’.
Even with Hubble, the fainter M class red stars are only just visible at 40 light years, which is why Trappist 1 is not in most of the star catalogues. Beyond this distance we can see ever fewer M class stars – particularly the fainter ones like this M8 – and it is where our procedural generation begins to kick in – supplementing the brighter, more visible stars.
The way Stellar Forge works is to use ‘available mass’ from which to generate systems – and because of this unaccounted mass, Stellar Forge has created a system with a Brown Dwarf in very nearly the same place – 39 light years away – this is only a little smaller than an M8 – and it even has seven terrestrial worlds around it – Core Sys Sector XU-P A5-0.
Interestingly the system that came out of Stellar Forge has a couple of moons, and a couple of co-orbiting binary pairs – these things would not (yet) be detected in the occlusion technique, as this is simply detecting the darkening of the stellar disc, but who knows, this might be possible.
Because of this we have tweaked Stellar Forge with the data from the recent discoveries so that the planets are now the same – and we have renamed it Trappist 1 – but the great thing is it is only a small tweak! We may still add a few moons back in, and this should go live in beta 2, and will of course be in 2.3 when it goes live to everyone.
Source: Frontier Forums