Setting up astronomy aware virtual/augmented worlds
Virtual world with Digital Terrain Model, historic monuments and motion
of visible celestial objects
The following sections will cover the implementation of such a tool:
Since 1996 I have been doing work on virtual worlds (Maes
Howe; Reijs , page 18 and
, page 11) and this project
Creating an astronomy aware virtual world tool that can
dynamically (under user control and preferable interactive/real-time)
the visible celestial objects (like visible stars, sun and planets) in
a virtual world consisting of a DTM (Digital Terrain Model) projection
of the environment and the (historical) monuments.
This all with proper accuracy and
(like stepping though time: the forth dimension/4D) for former times
minimum from 4000 BCE).
Initial tools for making virtual world
The project has involved/developed the following tools (see my
which is quoted by Schaefer ,
As you can understand from this long list it is quite cumbersome, so I
am looking from something easier.
- GIS program (GenesisII)
to make DTM (Digital Terrain Model) and height (gray scale) texture
A GIS (Geographical Information System) is of course important as an
underlying data system, but it is not the primarily goal of my project.
Some VRML worlds though function as a GIS.
- program to make
from height (gray-scale) texture files a VRML file (UnrealToX3D)
- program to make
VRML objects such as stones and buildings (Vizx3D)
- planetarium program (Skymap)
to calculate the celestial object paths over time
- a wrl and js editor that includes utf8 coding (VrmlPad)
- GPS or OS-map readings for the monument locations
- spreadsheet for making graphs fitting the cube projection
VRML (using gnomonic
- drawing programs (psp
the DTM and the monuments
shadow casting in Maeshowe; POV-Ray (using vrml2pov)
and VRML has been used (blaxxun).
tools (like HyperCam
and VideoMan). See
for an example here.
- others? (let me
Existing projects, involving the above tools, have created a VRML
and Real video of the Boyne
Valley, Ireland and monuments
Belgium. A world including time steps, so including the forth
for stepping through the ages, is the
Maeshowe project in Orkney. Another 4D world is related to rebuilding Newgrange for the Burning Man 2004
The astronomy aware virtual world (a combination of making a
sky [with moving celestial objects] and a DTM) is an unique and not yet
available product and I am sure this can be made a good (shareware)
for use in the archaeocosmology environment.
Some people/organisations working in the archaeoastronomy are very
interested in such a virtual world combining astronomy and DTM:
Some astronomical (3D/4D) related programs:
Progress on making an astronomy aware 4D virtual
The following progress has been made as proof of concept:
A prototype VRML world using the above is
available (watch the download time of the world, it is around 70
- A VRML time console.
Periods like: sec, min, hour, day, tropical year, lunar tropical month,
lunar synodic month, Metonic- and Saros cycles, etc. Manual/automatic
of time (back and advance). Date is always presented in Gregorian
Thanks to Bill Angel: an input form (using input fields instead of
clicking) is available for simple changes of time and date.
- A VRML
This star map (up
to 9000 stars) has been generated for the epoch interested. Sample
constellation are provided. In the below mentioned prototype the star
has not been fully implemented.
- A VRML simulation of the sun and
The sun and moon path (incl. astronomical refraction)
epoch are in the VRML world. It simulates also the light by these
Contact VRML 6.2, Cortona 4.2 and/or blaxxun
Contact 5.104 are recommended
for this type of world.
A few features don't work in Cosmo
Player 2.1.1 (Windows) so it is not a good VRML plug-in for this
type of world.
I learned a lot making this prototype, so if you want to exchange
experience, let me
know; I can give you access to my experience
Augmented reality system
Beside the above 4D virtual world, I would like to include in
project the opposite of the virtual world: an
augmented reality system (which is a continuation of my
A real-time tool than can project on a view of the real
world the moving celestial objects in former times. Thinking here about
using a VR helmet or a simpler/cheaper method (I have some ideas;-).
In this way one can just stand in the real world, toggle through former
time and see what happens. This methodology hopefully prevents the
problems in rendering steep local changes in terrain's, like the error
Thom (, page 68) made at Callanish.
More information on augmented
worlds, see this SURFnet site.
In search of co-developers
To implement the above, I am looking for co-developers (e.g.
or students wanting to do a BSc in astronomy related to archaeology:
or archaeocosmology). So anybody
in this, please let me
know. If it is possible to create something like a shareware
that would be great.
I would like to thank the following people for their help and
feedback: Bill Angel, Dave Arendash, Gerard Druiven, David Jones,
Phillip Sand Hansel,
Kim Veltman and
all other unmentioned people. Any remaining errors in methodology or
are my responsibility of course!!! If you want to provide constructive
feedback, let me
Disclaimer and Copyright
Major content related changes: Dec 5th, 2002