Augmented reality app enables virtual solar system tour

Operating in real time, app accurately depicts planets' daylight and night sides.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Nov 07, 2018
An augmented reality (AR) app that includes 3D-printed planet models makes it possible for anyone to take a virtual tour of the solar system's planets.

Created by the company AstroReality, which previously produced similar 3D models of the Earth and Moon, the app features miniatures of Mercury through Pluto, each with a diameter of 1.2 inches (three centimeters) with a resolution of 0.1 millimeters per pixel.

Available for both iOS and Android, the app has to be calibrated with a phone's camera to enable up close observations of the planets' atmospheres, moons, and rings. When the camera is pointed at a planet model, the app provides basic information about that planet, including its day length, year length, distance from the Sun, diameter, and mass.

While prominent planetary features, such as Jupiter's Great Red Spot, are visible without the app, there is far more to see and learn when using the models and the app together.

"The AR visualizations are based on real-time calculations of planetary orbits. The data and images used to make these are from NASA Science Solar System Exploration," AstroReality spokeswoman Anna Palagi said to the website

The NASA site is an interactive web page that includes visualizations of the Sun and planets along with real time measurements.

Because the app operates in real time, it shows the side of each planet that is currently illuminated and the side currently in darkness. Observers may need to wait for particular features to rotate into daylight before being able to see them lit up.

The nine planet models are sold together at AstroReality's website for $129.

"Every planet in the solar system has character. We translate that character onto every mini-model, giving you the opportunity to experience the solar system up close," the website notes.



We are dedicated to maintaining a respectful community that actively engages in lively discussions about news stories and blog posts. Please keep the following in mind when writing your comments.