Thursday, January 26, 2023

Cinematic 3D Space Simulations

Online astronomy has now entered the space age. Thanks to advances in 3D modeling in JavaScript astronomy articles online are now often accompanied by amazing cinematic 3D illustrations.

A great example of this is RTBF's How the James Webb Telescope Opens the Gateway to the Stars includes a truly impressive 3D animated illustration of NASA's newest space telescope. As you scroll through the beginning of this online article a 3D model illustrates how the telescope's solar panels, heat shield and 6.5m diameter mirror were unfurled in space. Information windows are also used in this 3D simulation to explain the purpose of each of these components and to explain how the telescope actually works. 

Another fantastic example can be viewed in ZDF's Mission Artemis. ZDF's interactive introduction to the Artemis mission includes 3D models of the Earth, the Moon, Mars and even the Gateway Space Station.

NASA's Artemis program will build a Lunar Gateway space station which could be used to establish a permanent home base on the Moon and to launch human missions to Mars. The Lunar Gatway Station will be the first space station in orbit around the moon. It will serve as a communication hub, science laboratory, and habitation module for astronauts. The station will also be used as the staging point for human missions to the Moon and hopefully in the future as a staging point for NASA's Deep Space Transport manned missions to Mars.

ZDF's introduction to the Artemis program includes an animated 3D simulation of an Orion transport module docking with the Lunar Gateway Station. It also shows the location of the Shakleton Crater at the Moon's South Pole, where a future Moon base station could be built.

Germany's Zeit newspaper has also created an amazing 3D space simulation to model and illustrate the destruction of the Iridium-33 satellite in 2009.

On Feb 10th 2009 a malfunctioning Soviet-era satellite smashed into Iridium-33 at ten times the speed of a flying bullet. The crash shattered both satellites and turned them into two clouds of debris containing more than 1,700 pieces of space junk. Even now, 13 years later, that debris is still orbiting the Earth, and makes up just a tiny part of the garbage that is now littering Earth's near space.

The 3D modelled simulation in the article Space Junk: Our Garbage is Space is used to help illustrate the growing problem of space debris and the danger that it creates to other space missions. The article also includes a 3D visualization of the millions of pieces of space debris now in low Earth orbit, in medium Earth orbit and further out in geo-stationary orbit around the Earth.

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