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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

In-World Planisphere

A while ago when I was making my first HUD, which is now available for free on in my Astro-Park Sky-platform. As part of the HUD features, I wanted to include an SL version of a Planisphere. So what is a Planisphere? Well it’s a tool for showing you what stars are visible at a given time from a particular Latitude, and as such is a good tool for improving your understanding and appreciation of the daily and annual motion of the stars. Anyway, I did come across some design issues, trying to make a HUD version as well as discovering a superb web based Flash version, that you can find at and I decided to include this into the HUD instead.

I still felt however that it would be good idea though to have an SL version, and so last evening I had another go. I found suitable free star chart and cover templates on the net and after making a few modifications mainly for accessibility and readability, I uploaded them to SL. It was then simply a case of rezzing shaping and texturizing two cylinders. Once in place and scaled, I set about putting together a rotation script. At the moment you will find that by touching the outer white ring, the chart rotates in 5 degree jumps, so about five days each time. The latitude setting for the original star chart is 50o North, which on the face plate I have stated is Northern Europe, but of course that includes all countries around the globe that fall within that particular celestial co-ordinate. I have checked the Planisphere against one of the handheld variety of my own, and it seems to work pretty well. So next time you are passing Shimmer Island, why not Teleport up to the Astro-Park and give it a try, feedback welcome

Bye for now, Skipper

Friday, 14 December 2007

Swivelling Information

Following the completion of the Interactive star chart at my Astro-park skyplatform, I decided to add some information content for the Solar System display. I had considered placing a notecard in each planet, but decided it would be more interesting, for me at least to try and utilise a screen of some kind. In the end I got down to some scripting and settled on a clickable slide board combined with an avatar scanner. Now depending where you stand, avatar wise, the board will point in you direction to be read. In the screen shot left standing at the Planet Saturn.

In the screenshot here, you can see that I, Skipper Abel, am positioned by the planet Pluto, and the board has swivelled right. There is of course the situation of how I get the system to deal with more than one avatar, making this an ongoing project.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bringing the sky down to SL Earth

Continuing to look for ways of using Second Life as part of my teaching, not so long ago I decided to put a new skybox above my place at Shimmer Island that would act as a meeting place and resource center for an astronomy venture that I am moving forward as part of a more general enrichment programme. The Skybox I called the Astro-Park, and went about gathering and producing some suitable features to install, like a small observatory and the planets of the Solar System. I experimented with making a simple holodeck for the Milky Way, and a deep sky projector that casts images of nebula and galaxies into the dark night sky.

My latest addition to all this is an interactive star chart. If like myself you have occasion to look at the night sky on charts, you may have become aware that a lot more attention is being paid these days, particularly so with those appearing in popular magazines, by the inclusion of colour and images. And so my thought was, can I use SL to make them both 3D and animated?

Well this is the project so far.

At particular points on the chart you will find small 3D models of stars, planets etc. Just touch on any one of these to open and close the object. In the case of planets and stars, (not to scale), they will expand and rotate, as this happens the adjacent screen fills with an accompanying information slide. Guessing what the surface of a distant yellow orange star looks like has I must admit required some imaginative license.

For meteor showers I decided to develop a particle emitter, which I think looks reasonably convincing. I am still thinking about using short introductory voice-overs. If you feel like teleporting over for a browse around please feel free and drop me an IM by way of any feedback and if you would like to join the Shimmer Island group.

Bye for now Skipper