Home > Your Turn > Your Turn Round 3: Do-It-Yourself Solar System

Your Turn Round 3: Do-It-Yourself Solar System

I wrote a program!

Specifically, I wrote a cute little command line utility I creatively named SolarSystem.  It’s an N-body gravitational solver, which means that if you plug in the positions and velocities of whatever stars, planets, moons, or spacecraft you want, it’ll tell you what happens to them in the future, how they orbit each other, and so on.  It’s also entirely general — I included an example which runs a demonstration based on our own solar system, but you can write up your own based on any system you want, real or imaginary.

Why did I do this, do you ask?

Well, first, I’ve always wanted to write a relatively nice gravity solver, convenient for solar systems.  Now I have one.  Yay!

Second, I’m plotting a novel based on the second example system I included with the software.  It’s a system which has gone very, very chaotic.  Interesting things happen to those poor planets.  As to why this is important to the story… well, I’m going to keep that under my hat for now.

And, finally, I’m also looking for jobs.  Like, in the real world.  Preferably the kind that pay you for doing stuff like writing software.  So, I’m also planning on using this project as a launching point for beefing up my programming skills.  At the moment, this program is a command line utility — you’ll need to know a little bit about working with a terminal and the Linux environment in order to use it, you’ll need to know a little about solar systems in order to make your own, and you’ll also need a separate plotting tool in order to look at all the shiny results.  I plan on writing a GUI (graphical user interface) that handles all that in a clean manner.  Preferably, something intuitive to use.  If you’ve got suggestions for features you’d like to see, please feel free to leave them here.

If you want all the gory details about how it works, you can read the help document I included with the program.  Ideally, it should help.  If you do end up using it, keep in mind that it’s not up to snuff as full-bore scientific software.  There’s a whole host of effects it doesn’t include, ranging from the time-delay for how long gravity takes to affect something (Earth feels the Sun’s gravity from where it was eight minutes ago, and vice-versa) to tidal interactions.  So, keep that in mind.

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