As most of you probably know, since 1996, we have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars, and the hope is that this journey of discovery will eventually lead mankind making a detection of a “pale blue dot” - an Earth like planet mass and radius wise with free oxygen in its atmosphere - orbiting a main sequence star in its habitable zone.
NASA, that rare beast, a government agency that I dare say commands universal love and respect, has published orbital elements for all confirmed exoplanets through its ExoplanetArchive project, and there’s an API that serves beautifully formatted JSON, so you can see where this is going; I’ve integrated it into Harmony of the Spheres so that you can visualise all of these alien planetary systems… Worlds, like our own, on their own legs, with their own stories waiting to be known !!!
To make these simulations a bit more informative they include the orbits of Mercury and Earth so that comparing these systems with our solar system is straight forward, and then I have also included the habitable zones of the stars the planets orbit around, so that one can get a sense of which planets could possibly host bodies of liquid water. The habitable zone shader is the first one I have written from scratch
Next step will be to implement procedural planets whose appearance depend on their temperature, mass and radius!!