Submitted by , posted on 03 November 2004

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These are a couple screenshots from a small piece of software I wrote (whilst extremely bored) that simulates accretion of a solar system. The rendering is powered by my Nudge2 engine which features (here at least) lens flares, blooms, motion blur, a particle system and normal mapping using GLSL for the asteroid/planet textures.

The much more interesting aspect of the software is the gravity simulation itself. The program uses Newtonion gravity to calculate the movement of thousands of pieces of individual rock orbiting around a new-born star. When asteroids collide at relatively low speed, they merge and form bigger asteroids (or if big enough, planets) with a larger gravitational influence. When they collide at higher speeds they break into smaller pieces. When the simulation is left to run for minutes (or hours depending on the amount of rocks used initially) planets begin to form, and eventually a whole solar system is randomly constructed. The great thing is that since accretion simply follows the laws of gravity, and no template is used to precalculate the planets, the solar system it makes is unique every time the simulation is run.

I intend to add a few more features before I declare the project finished. One thing I really want to add is composite properties to the initial pieces of rock, so that each planet that is eventually formed has a different compositional make-up to the rest (also giving it a unique appearence).

Blake Robinson

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