On April 14, 2023, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) mission was launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket towards Jupiter’s natural satellites. The spacecraft will fly by Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede multiple times before entering orbit around Ganymede in December 2034 for an in-depth study that will conclude in September 2035.
The primary goal of the JUICE mission is to determine whether conditions favorable to life exist in the subglacial oceans that are believed to be present on these three Galilean moons. The objective is to study the characteristics of these oceans and understand their formation. In addition, the spacecraft will contribute to deepening our knowledge of Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere.
The JUICE spacecraft weighs approximately 5.1 tons and uses large solar panels to generate its power. It carries nearly 285 kilograms of scientific instruments, including spectrometers to study the composition of the moons’ soil and atmosphere, a camera and an altimeter to map their surfaces, a radar to examine the superficial layers of the subsurface (including the ice crust and potential oceans), a radio experiment to deduce the celestial bodies’ internal structure, a magnetometer, and instruments to measure fields and particles to analyze the characteristics of the space environment.
The journey to Jupiter will take about seven and a half years, during which the spacecraft will perform several gravitational assist maneuvers to accelerate and adjust its trajectory. These maneuvers include flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mars, allowing JUICE to reach Jupiter in 2029.
The free downloadable “Juice” module allows you to track the probe’s trajectory until 2031 (for now).
Also worth checking out: this article published on the Freeappsforme website. Good luck to them!
This new revision introduces a module (star3d) that enhances the appearance of stars by adding specific textures for each spectral type as well as 3D prominences. The representation is not entirely accurate from a scientific standpoint, as the visible surface of the stars and the prominences seem to combine different wavelengths. However, this adds just a bit of complexity.
Version 3.0.283 also removes the video mode, which has proven to be useless for most smartphones. Indeed, video sensors generally perform poorly in low light conditions and cannot detect stars in viewfinder mode. Moreover, this feature required overly intrusive permissions, such as access to the camera and microphone.
WinStars 3 is currently based on the Qt 5 software library, which allows for compatibility with all platforms, among other features. However, this Qt 5 version is now becoming obsolete, and it’s time to switch to the latest available version. This transition will help reduce incompatibilities with the most recent operating systems and introduce new features to the program.
Since this is a major update, it is likely that numerous issues will arise during this transition. That’s why I have decided to offer a beta version for in-depth testing.
If you’re interested, you can try out this test version for Windows by clicking on the following link:
This is an old project that I’ve had in the back of my mind, and it’s taking on a new form in this latest version: using W3’s computational and visualization capabilities to illustrate current astronomical events.
We’ve already introduced the Artemis 1 mission and the ability to follow the Orion capsule in real-time. Ultimately, I’d like to do something much more complex, reproducing all phases of a mission’s life, from launch, trajectory corrections, to accessing scientific data. However, there are many obstacles to overcome. First, there are technical challenges (such as improving object appearance and adding more complex effects like projected shadows and metallic reflections), but even more difficult is gaining access to information regarding maintenance operations, orientation, engine ignitions, and data acquisition. This would require contact with a team member, which is not at all easy. But after all, I live about 50 kilometers from Madrid’s Deep Space Network… A lead to follow?
But the main feature of this version is the introduction of a new symbol (the letter i in red) indicating a link to an online article on theconversation.com.
These high-quality popular science articles are written by astronomers or physicists, and I am reproducing them here with their permission. Many thanks to all these researchers who devote part of their time to informing the general public about the current state of research in astrophysics.
And finally… W3 is nearly 100,000 lines of C++ code that I maintain alone. It’s more than 3 GB of astronomical data stored on two servers that power the software. The program is capable of displaying over a billion objects. So, you can encourage me to continue by purchasing the full version, or by leaving a positive comment on Google Play, etc.
Introducing 3D landscapes! For now, this new feature remains experimental. The program currently only displays a single object (a mesh) containing all the elements of the landscape (vegetation, buildings, etc.). These 3D objects have been obtained through photogrammetry, a technique that involves capturing a scene from multiple viewpoints to create a volumetric reconstruction.
However, this solution is not optimal. The elements of the landscapes are still too approximate in places, and the files are too large. Later on, I will use the tessellation technique to improve rendering quality and reduce file size.
After several months of interruption, the development of WinStars is gradually resuming. Among the recent features, we can mention the addition of all known exoplanets, which can be easily located from the planetarium mode.
Since the first discoveries by Aleksander Wolszczan and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz in the 1990s, thousands of exoplanets are now listed in catalogs. The Corot, Kepler, and Tess space missions have significantly increased their numbers in recent years, and the James Webb Space Telescope is also contributing to their direct observation. We can mention the example of HIP 65426 b and the first image of an exoplanet obtained in mid-infrared. This is a very young giant exoplanet, about 15 million years old, located 90 astronomical units from its star. With an estimated mass of about 7 times that of Jupiter, it was discovered using the European instrument SPHERE at the Very Large Telescope in 2017.
The complete list of exoplanets can be accessed from the program by entering the command “list exo” in the search bar. You can also locate an object by simply entering its identifier. The database used by W3 comes from the exoplanet.eu website and will be updated every week.
The revision 3.0.268 also proposes to follow the position of the Orion capsule in real time. The objective of this Artemis 1 mission is to return to the Moon in 2025 and ultimately maintain a more or less continuous human presence there.
The next revisions of W3 will include the ability to visit these exoplanets in the 3D Navigation mode. I also plan to add 3D landscapes to the planetarium mode (for fun) and many more features… But I’ll tell you more about that later.
I am continuing to improve the program’s stability. It is therefore essential to report any operational anomalies using the bugtracker or forums (here and there1). Thank you for your participation!
(1) A big thank you to Sora Kozima for creating this forum on discord.com!