GalaxyFlyer – an interactive visualisation of a billion of particles

GalaxyFlyer – an interactive visualisation of a billion of particles
GalaxyFlyer is cross-platform software to render real-time visualisations of arbitrary simulations with up to 109 particles (stars, gas, dark matter or other data representable by particles).

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) has been very active in developing fast interactive visualisation of point particles in galaxy simulations with properties of the points encoding information such as ages or chemistry of stars, gas temperature, dark matter density etc. GalaxyFlyer is a collaboration betwen UCLAN Games Development group and the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute. The objectives of this project are to have visualisations that are:
– Accurate, can create images & movies suitable for publication
– Attractive, can be used (real-time) for outreach
– 30 frames per second real-time rendering in HD resolution
– Quick pre-processing time (a few minutes maximum)
– Runs on a range of platforms, with relatively modest hardware requirements
GalaxyFlyer is able to handle large datasets very efficiently. It is able to represent multiple particle species in an intuitive way.  The goal is now to enable this code to visualise data from the European Space Agency’s cornerstone Gaia mission. Once this is available, the GalaxyFlyer will be an excellent tool for astronomy outreach, with members of the public able to intuitively navigate a very large dataset representing our home Galaxy.  GalaxyFlyer will also be a invaluable tool for professional astronomers to explore the rich dataset that Gaia will produce.