Jar

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Bringing the Magic of Universe Sandbox to Magic Leap

Indie Creator Program

The news is out, we got a grant to develop Universe Sandbox for Magic Leap! Out of the 6,500 applicants that applied for Magic Leap’s Independent Creator Program, we were one of the lucky 30 that were accepted. We’re excited to join the company of other great indie developers and excited to bring the Universe Sandbox experience to Magic Leap.

If you’re not familiar, Magic Leap creates mixed-reality (MR) technology. Like VR, MR utilizes a headset and a motion-tracked controller for interaction. But unlike VR, the real world doesn’t disappear when you put on the Magic Leap headset. MR creates a map of the physical world around you and then superimposes digital images over it, bringing objects to life by making them appear like they are right there in front of you.

And with the mapping and object detection, the real world can interact with the digital world, allowing you to do things like smash planets against your wall.

Bootcamp


The very first step of development. Viewing Earth in Universe Sandbox through Magic Leap.

In February, Dan (Universe Sandbox creator & director) and Dave (Universe Sandbox mobile developer) went to California to attend the Magic Leap Creator Bootcamp. The Bootcamp was a crash-course in Magic Leap development, with discussions about the hardware, technical considerations, best design practices, and everything else creators like us need to know to make our magic happen.

It was an inspiring few days and a great opportunity for us to see what others are working on and what is possible for Universe Sandbox. We received some quality feedback on our plans as well as some exciting ideas for new directions.

Improving Universe Sandbox on Every Platform

Developing Universe Sandbox for Magic Leap is without a doubt exciting. But we don’t think about this development work as existing in a vacuum. While we continue to develop for desktop, we’re completely rewriting our VR interface, we’re polishing and optimizing for mobile, and we’ve now begun this work for Magic Leap. Further in the future, we’d like to do console versions, too. A key part of our vision for all of this is that the Universe Sandbox experience is never watered down. We want to make it possible to do the same things with Universe Sandbox in VR and on your phone that you already do on your desktop.

Of course, different platforms have different strengths and weaknesses; our design decisions are affected by these considerations for different hardware, different input, etc. But we can still aim for the power and flexibility that exists in the desktop simulation and interface.

Some of the design problems we face with Magic Leap will require developing solutions that improve all platforms. We expect the work we do on the interface will have a lot of significance for both the VR version and the mobile version that we are working on. And the performance optimizations we make while getting Universe Sandbox running on the Magic Leap headset will certainly have a ripple effect and improve performance on every other platform.

We look forward to sharing more about this journey as we continue development for Magic Leap!


What’s Next for Universe Sandbox | Spring 2019

Delayed Gratification

We know many of you have been patiently waiting for two of our next big features, Surface Grids & Lasers. We believe these features will be an awesome addition to the core Universe Sandbox simulation and experience, and we know from your excitement that you agree.

Not familiar with Surface Grids? It’s a feature we’re developing for Universe Sandbox that makes it possible to simulate values locally across the surface of an object. In effect, it allows for more detailed and accurate surface simulation and more dynamic and interactive surface visuals. It also makes possible tools like the laser, which is essentially just a fun way of heating up localized areas of a surface.

Short Version

If you’re a fan of treating bad news like a bandaid that needs to be ripped off, here’s the short version: We chose to further delay the release of Surface Grids & Lasers because our implementation was not meeting our expectations. We are now applying our work to a completely new approach that we think will be well worth the wait. We hope to have it ready this summer. Thank you for your patience!

And in the meantime, we hope to release some new simulation features: improved physics and new galaxies. Read more about these below.  

Long Version

And if you’re curious, here’s the longer version: Last month we sat down for a team meeting on the status of Surface Grids and Lasers and had to make a difficult decision. The features weren’t quite living up to our expectations and standards. While we were continuing to make progress on development, we were also continually running into problems and were pushing the technical limitations of the system we had implemented, all with diminishing returns. We could either continue to work through all of the issues that remained and end up with something that met most of our high-level design goals but fell short on performance, or we could take everything we had learned and reimplement it in an entirely new system that would meet even more of our goals, be exponentially faster, bypass some of the issues we were trying to solve, and have much more room for future expansion. That makes it sound like a clear choice, but there were a couple of drawbacks: there were some technical compromises with this proposed new system, and pursuing it meant that we’d have to further delay the release of these features, something that we knew both we and our fans would not prefer. But after more discussion, we decided we didn’t want to compromise the quality of these features — let’s delay a bit, work on this better version, and release something that we’re very proud of.  Please know that we are committed to new features and improvements and to the long-term future of Universe Sandbox development. We’re even expanding our team again — come join us as a Graphics Developer or Spaceship Physics Developer!

We can’t give a release date yet for Surface Grids & Lasers, but our plan moving forward is to provide an update every two weeks on their development. Below is a preview of what’s to come, showing a tidally-locked Earth close to the Sun where the back side freezes over and the near side becomes molten. And wait for the laser at the end!

Please note: the following image and the image at the top of this post are from the previous implementation of Surface Grids. We hope to go above and beyond what can be seen here for our new implementation, but the feature is subject to change and these may not be representative of its final state.

Improved Physics & New Galaxies

While we all wait as patiently as possible for Surface Grids and Lasers, we hope to deliver on two other features that have also been a long time coming: 1) a new, faster, and more stable physics system and 2) brand new galaxies.

Faster & More Stable Physics

The new physics system actually followed a similar development story as the one above about Surface Grids. After a long time spent working on the new system, the bulk of it was finished but stubborn issues stood in the way of its release, and new ones seemed to pop up every week. Eventually, we decided to cut our losses and run with a brand new system that was suddenly feasible thanks to some new Unity technology. Turns out this was a great move — we already have an experimental version of this new physics system available in Update 22.2 (learn more about trying it out). We hope to have the remaining kinks worked out soon so we can release it officially and get to work on some exciting new physics features again.

Brand New Galaxies

We also have already made great progress on a rewrite of galaxies, finally showing them the love that they have long deserved. These new galaxies will be much more varied, more interactive, and more accurate in simulation and appearance. The GIFs below do not show the latest visual changes, but they do a great job of showing how much more dynamic these galaxies are.

They will allow real-time editing of their properties, just like with any other object in the simulation:

And here you can see a series of procedurally generated galaxies added to a simulation:

We’re super proud of how galaxies have been shaping up so far. They’re impressive technically, scientifically accurate, fun to play with, and they’re looking pretty good, too. That checks all of our boxes for a quality Universe Sandbox feature. We look forward to sharing them in the future.

 


Revamped Vapor & Engine Experiments | Update 22.2

April 18: 22.2.1 & 22.2.2 address a Mac-specific issue that caused crashes while using the Add panel. Known Mac issue: loading “Solar System Planets, Moons, and Large Objects” simulation sometimes results in a crash.

Run Steam to download Update 22.2, or buy Universe Sandbox via our website or the Steam Store.

This update adds improved vaporization effects that are more accurate and colorful. It also introduces an experimental version of our new physics system that makes gravity simulation faster, more stable, and more accurate. We’d love it if you tried it out and helped us test it!

Home > Try New Physics

Please remember this system is still experimental. If you experience any problems, let us know! You can report any issues on our forums (local forum | Steam forum) or via Home > Send Feedback.

There are also dozens of smaller improvements and fixes. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Added Fahrenheit as a temperature unit
  • Added Filipino to available languages
  • Improved Search in Open panel
  • Trails & orbits work on older hardware again
  • Object lighting on Linux works again
  • New simulation with all planets, moons, and large Solar System objects

Check out a full list of What’s New in Update 22.2

 

We’re excited for the upcoming official release of this new physics system so that everyone can enjoy the improvements to performance and accuracy. We’re also working on brand new galaxies and, while we had a setback with Surface Grids & Lasers, we are now making good progress again. Learn more about our progress on these features

We’re hiring a Graphics Developer! Learn more and apply

We’re hiring a Spaceship Physics Developer! Learn more and apply

 


Universe Sandbox Takes Off in China

The Wandering Earth


Have you heard of the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth? While it has had modest success with a limited release in the United States, it is now China’s second-highest-grossing film of all time with over $679 million in domestic box office sales.

The screenplay is based on a story by Liu Cixin, a renown Chinese sci-fi author who has popularized the genre with his award-winning stories, including the novel The Three-Body Problem (which also has a movie adaptation in the works and received praise from Barack Obama).

Simulating a Disaster Film


Earth being ripped apart by Jupiter’s tidal forces in Universe Sandbox.

Critics say The Wandering Earth often falls victim to the trappings of disaster films (overblown CGI, heavy-handed sentimentality, etc.), but what excites us is the scenario that plays out in the film.

To us, the plot summary reads like a description of a simulation in a not-too-distant version of Universe Sandbox: [SPOILERS] In the future, Sun evolves into red giant and threatens Earth habitability → Gigantic thrusters are attached to Earth (you better believe this fits well into our development plans) → Earth is propelled farther from the Sun and freezes over → Tidal forces from Jupiter wreak havoc as Earth approaches the gas giant and prepares for collision → A GIF of this terribly interesting disaster is captured and the simulation is shared to Steam Workshop… oh wait that part wasn’t in the film.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones to see this potential. Video creators in China familiar with Universe Sandbox immediately got to work simulating the events of the film.

Here are a couple of the more popular ones that we’re aware of:

 

Sales Boost

The news of the rising popularity of these videos in China was shared with us by our proofreader for the Chinese language in Universe Sandbox. And sure enough, this correlated with a sharp rise in Universe Sandbox sales in China that we had noticed a week before, along with an influx of Steam reviews written in Chinese (some of which mentioned The Wandering Earth explicitly).

The overlap with Steam’s Lunar New Year sale meant that, for the first two weeks in February, Universe Sandbox copies sold in China made up 50% of our total sales on Steam. Compare this to the previous two weeks, when Chinese sales accounted for only 7% of total sales.

 

Translating Chinese

Needless to say, we’re extremely grateful for the exposure brought to us by The Wandering Earth and the content creators who used Universe Sandbox to explore its premise. It’s also not hard to imagine that our support for Chinese in Universe Sandbox, which we added last summer, also played a part in making it more accessible and appealing to Chinese players. That said, we don’t want to overlook some criticism we have received about the current Chinese translations. Some reviewers noted that, while it’s appreciated that there is support for Chinese, the translations themselves could be vastly improved.

As with all of the languages we support, we currently rely on community volunteers to suggest improved translations and vote on the best ones. We have contributors now, including a proofreader who approves the best translations, but this is a big project — we are often changing and adding text, and we have no way ourselves to review the quality of the translations. We hope that as the community grows, we have more community members able to help improve these translations.

Want to help translate? Just click “Help Translate” on the Home panel and follow the instructions. Learn more

Want to be a proofreader that approves translations? Let us know!

 

 


Universe Sandbox at the American Astronomical Society Conference

Super Bowl of Astronomy

In early January we gathered some of our team in Seattle, Washington to show off Universe Sandbox at the 233rd meetup of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

We’ve attended other conferences before that focus on video games, like PAX, but AAS gave us an opportunity to show Universe Sandbox to a different crowd. If you are a researcher, educator, science journalist, or student in the world of astronomy, then AAS is the go-to conference, what some call the “Super Bowl of Astronomy.” And while the government shutdown meant that hundreds of NASA employees who planned on attending couldn’t go, there was still plenty of folk there who had never heard of Universe Sandbox and wanted to learn more.

 

Come for the Collisions, Stay for the Accurate Mass Loss

Drawing people into our booth was helped a bit by two gigantic TVs showing off some of the usual Universe Sandbox scenarios — you know the ones: Earth melting, stars exploding, moons ripping apart under massive tidal stress.

But what made many attendees stick around and talk to us was the fact that what we were showing not only looked great, but it was also based in science. Universe Sandbox: Come for the fiery collisions, stay for the accurate mass loss when Ceres makes a near pass of a white dwarf!

 

Communicating with Universe Sandbox

In talking to AAS attendees, we hoped to show the potential for using Universe Sandbox for education and visualizations. While most Universe Sandbox players know and appreciate how useful it can be as an educational tool, we want to make sure it gets used in actual classrooms. We believe Universe Sandbox makes it quick and easy to demonstrate astronomy and physics concepts with intuitive and interactive experiments. But don’t take our word for it — here’s astronomy YouTuber Scott Manley with a similar message.

And beyond the classroom, it’s just as quick and easy to use Universe Sandbox for creating visualizations for research, lectures, and articles. There are more sophisticated tools for gathering data with the accuracy needed for research, but there’s nothing quite as convenient as Universe Sandbox for then using the data to create a visual representation, as shown here with the discovery of exoplanets around our nearby star Wolf 1061.

If you’re an educator, a researcher, or are otherwise curious how you can use Universe Sandbox for science communication, please get in touch!

 


Hiring a Spaceship Physics Developer

Giant Army is looking for a physics developer to join our team. You will work with our senior physics developer, team scientists, and other developers to add the necessary physics and simulation code to bring realistic, sandbox-style spaceships to Universe Sandbox.

This is a full-time, remote position.

Join us. We’re making something incredible that’s unlike anything else.

Your Role

  • Develop rigid body simulation within our existing custom physics engine (we do not and cannot use Unity’s built-in physics)
  • Build upon the rigid body simulation and innovate with spaceship features such as:
    • Thrusters
    • Data-driven historical simulations (Cassini, Voyager, etc.)
    • Modular spaceship parts
    • Destruction of spacecraft from heating, lasers, and collisions (both from other spacecraft and asteroids/planets/moons)
    • Integration with our planned megastructures/tethers feature

Qualifications

  • (Strong C# && Unity Engine experience) || (Experience with an entity component model && object-oriented programing)
  • Experience with physics engine development
  • Familiar with version control (we use GitHub), task-management systems (we use GitHub+ZenHub), unit tests, code reviews, and so forth
  • Self-driven; comfortable working collaboratively and remotely
  • Appreciation for, and focus on, realism and detail
  • Passion for science, astronomy, spaceships, and real-time interactive simulations
  • Love of fantastical what-if scenarios: what-if.xkcd.com (note citation #6 on 148)

Company Overview

Giant Army is the company behind Universe Sandbox. Our headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA, with team members across the United States, Germany, and Denmark.

Team members enjoy a flexible, collaborative environment. We strive for work-life balance, and we pursue the features that get us excited about science. We do the work so we can share it with others. We’re committed to creating an accessible experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

Science is for everyone, and we welcome all qualified applicants.

Product Overview

Universe Sandbox is a space simulator that merges real-time gravity, climate, collision, and physical interactions to reveal the beauty of our universe and the fragility of our planet. It’s more than a game; it’s a way of experiencing and learning about reality in a way that’s never been done before.

Universe Sandbox is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and VR with mobile and future platforms planned. We’ve sold nearly half a million copies and have a “Very Positive” rating on Steam with 93% positive user reviews.

How to Apply

Apply here

Resume and code sample required. Please either upload or include links.

 

Hiring a Graphics Developer

Giant Army is looking for a graphics developer to join our team and help improve Universe Sandbox. You will be working closely with our team’s senior graphics developer to help develop, improve, and maintain assets and visual effects. As your skills and experience with the position grow, you will begin to research and develop entire visual subsystems of Universe Sandbox.

This is a full-time, remote position.

Join us. We’re making something incredible that’s unlike anything else.

Your Role

  • Maintain focus on interactive, realistic, and scientifically-accurate visual representations
  • Work independently with guidance from our senior graphics developer, team scientists, and director
  • Maintain source assets by integrating new data, such as updated elevation maps
  • Prepare assets for use in the engine, such as importing and error checking models and textures, and creating and assigning materials
  • Procedurally or manually generate textures for shader effects and surfaces
  • Develop and maintain code used to connect visual and simulation systems

Qualifications

  • (Strong C# & Unity Engine experience) || (Experience with an entity component model & object-oriented programming)
  • Strong understanding of graphics pipelines, rendering techniques, and graphics-related math
  • Experience writing and optimizing shaders (HLSL, GLSL, Cg)
  • Appreciation for, and focus on, realism and detail
  • Familiar with version control (we use GitHub), task-management systems (we use GitHub+ZenHub), code reviews, and so forth
  • Self-driven; comfortable working collaboratively and remotely
  • Passion for science, astronomy, and real-time interactive simulations
  • Love of fantastical what-if scenarios: what-if.xkcd.com (note citation #6 on 148)

Company Overview

Giant Army is the company behind Universe Sandbox. Our headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, USA, with team members across the United States, Germany, and Denmark.

Team members enjoy a flexible, collaborative environment. We strive for work-life balance, and we pursue the features that get us excited about science. We do the work so we can share it with others. We’re committed to creating an accessible experience that can’t be found elsewhere.

Science is for everyone, and we welcome all qualified applicants.

Product Overview

Universe Sandbox is a space simulator that merges real-time gravity, climate, collision, and physical interactions to reveal the beauty of our universe and the fragility of our planet. It’s more than a game; it’s a way of experiencing and learning about reality in a way that’s never been done before.

Universe Sandbox is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and VR with mobile and future platforms planned. We’ve sold nearly half a million copies and have a “Very Positive” rating on Steam with 93% positive user reviews.

How to Apply

Apply here

Resume and code sample required. Please either upload or include links.

2018 Retrospective

Happy New Year!

Before we take a look at what’s coming to Universe Sandbox this year, let’s take a look back at our achievements in 2018, by the numbers:

 

1

new team member: welcome, Jules, our new sound designer!

 

2

the # that was dropped from the logo.

That’s right, now it’s just Universe Sandbox. We’ll have more to say about this soon!

8

# of significant updates to Universe Sandbox.

  • They Put a Car in Space, We Upgraded Our Engine | Update 20.5 | March 7, 2018
  • More Super Supernovae | Update 20.6 | March 15, 2018
  • This Hyperbolic Update Will Change Your Life | Update 20.7 | May 24, 2018
  • 20 Earth Languages & 12 Jovian Moons | Update 21 | July 19, 2018
  • Windows Mixed Reality Support | Update 21.2 | August 02, 2018
  • The Extremes of Our Solar System | Update 21.3 | October 04, 2018
  • The Universe Just Got Bigger: Steam Workshop Support | Update 22 | November 15, 2018
  • Far Out | Update 22.1 | December 20, 2018

 

12

# of Universe Sandbox team members that fit into one house in Spain for a week.

 

21

# of new simulations.

  • 2 Parker Solar Probe sims
  • 2 Tesla Roadster sims
  • 2 sims of Jupiter’s newly discovered moons
  • New Horizons Ultima Thule Encounter in 2019
  • 2018 VG18: The Most Distant Object in the Solar System
  • 2015 TG387: A Goblin at the Edge of the Solar System
  • Voyagers 1 & 2 Start 2019 Outside the Solar System
  • Ultimate Engineered System
  • Solar System with No Sun
  • Kepler 10
  • Kepler 47 Binary System
  • Alpha Centauri Triple System
  • Saturn & Earth
  • Retrograde Asteroid 2015 BZ509
  • Interstellar Object with a Hyperbolic Trajectory
  • Solar System with Betelgeuse instead of the Sun
  • Conservation of Momentum lesson
  • Gravitational Force lesson

This just includes the simulations that we added, though. Scroll down for a much larger number of simulations that our community has shared on Workshop!

 

22

# of languages now supported in Universe Sandbox.

 

26

# of pages of release notes for Universe Sandbox updates in 2018.

Check out What’s New.

 

325

# of bugs fixed.

You know what they say, fixing a bug a day keeps the QA away. Just kidding, we can’t — and don’t want to — stop our awesome QA, Mat, from hunting down bugs in Universe Sandbox.

Not all of these bug fixes were notable for releases, as there are many bugs that are discovered and fixed while we’re still doing behind-the-scenes work with improving Universe Sandbox. We look forward to squashing hundreds more this year!

 

479

Highest # of concurrent users in Universe Sandbox in 2018 (happened on the week of August 6).

This is the fifth highest of all time for us.

 

1,114

# of positive Steam reviews of Universe Sandbox written in 2018.

All this love for Universe Sandbox really warms our cold, spaceborne hearts. <3

 

2,420

# of simulations shared on Steam Workshop.

That means there are literally thousands of simulations featuring alien planets and systems, recently discovered exoplanets, confounding scientific phenomena, worlds from movies, books, and other video games, and of course bizarre bugs (or are they features?), created by you, the community, now shared on Steam Workshop. We look forward to seeing this treasure trove continue to grow.

 

7,160

# of copies of Universe Sandbox donated for charity.

This year we donated copies to StackUp for distribution to military personnel, donated proceeds to the National Center for Science Education, provided copies to schools and educational organizations, and donated copies for various fundraisers for people doing awesome things, like all the folks at CosmoQuest.

 

12,694

# of objects added to the Universe Sandbox database.

That’s 11,973 new Solar System objects, 387 new exoplanets, 310 new stars, 21 new moons, 2 new human-scale objects, and 1 new galaxy.

 

95,736

# of messages sent on Slack.

We’re a remote team, so other than some video chats and comments on GitHub, all of our conversations happen on Slack. It’s what makes our collaboration on Universe Sandbox possible!

 

>100,000

# of copies sold on Steam and other platforms.

Or, on average, one copy sold every five minutes — comfortably keeping pace with last year!

 

4,506,463

# of views of Markiplier’s two recent videos featuring Universe Sandbox.

These were the most watched Universe Sandbox videos on YouTube this year. And this brings the total number of views of Markiplier’s Universe Sandbox videos to… 35,522,196. Granted, 24 million of those views are on the so-catchy-you-really-will-regret-being-reminded-of-it Space is Cool remix, but we’ll take some credit for providing a bit of inspiration and a nice backdrop for Markiplier’s auto-tuned cries of love for space. Many thanks to Markiplier for helping spread the word!

Can you BLOW UP a BLACK HOLE: https://youtu.be/LW6S74J4kA8

1000 WAYS to DESTROY EARTH: https://youtu.be/4FEdjWW98QI

 

>6,000,000

# of supernovae in Universe Sandbox.

According to our analytics, y’all have exploded more than 6 million stars. Needless to say, that’s an accomplishment.

 

What’s Next?

Our big features this year were Localization (support for other languages) and Steam Workshop. A lot of time and effort went into these features, and we think they’re a pretty big deal — Localization opens up Universe Sandbox for the first time to people all over the world, and support for Workshop has made it super easy to check out an ever increasing catalogue of simulations made by people pushing the limits of Universe Sandbox.

But we also recognize that these features did not change any aspects of the simulation itself. And the simulation is the heart of Universe Sandbox. While we made a number of some smaller improvements and fixes related to the simulation, we unfortunately ran into continual issues with two big updates that we had hoped to get out this year — Surface Grids / Lasers and a physics rewrite. Surface Grids will allow for more detailed surface simulation, including localized temperatures, which makes possible things like heating from lasers. The physics rewrite should greatly increase physics performance and pave the way for additional physics-related features, like megastructures.

We hope to have more news about Surface Grids soon, along with some insight into some of the obstacles we’ve faced with its development. We also continue to work on other projects like new star audio, a new tutorial system, a VR interface overhaul, new galaxies, a mobile version, and continual improvements to the overall experience.

We thank all of you for your continued support of Universe Sandbox! This year we remain committed to improving Universe Sandbox as we develop and plan new features, upgrades, and fixes for 2019 and the years to come.

– The Universe Sandbox Team
Dan, Chris, Georg, Alexander, Jenn, Jonathan, Dave, Rappo, Mat, Jacob, Erika, Jules, and Jared

 


New Year, New Limits of our Solar System for New Horizons

Happy New Year!

While we celebrate one more trip of our beautiful planet around the Sun, the spacecraft New Horizons sets a record for traveling to the most distant object in our Solar System ever visited, 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule.” This object is currently 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, or more than 43 AU from the Sun, which means it is more than 43 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. New Horizons is expected to make its closest approach to Ultima Thule shortly after midnight EST January 1, 2019.

Check out the flyby in Universe Sandbox:

Home > Open > New Horizons Ultima Thule Encounter in 2019

 

New Limits for New Horizons

After the record-setting 2015 flyby of Pluto and its moons, the New Horizons spacecraft continued its journey through the outer reaches of the Solar System. In that same year, NASA selected a new target for New Horizons to observe: a Kuiper Belt object discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope the year earlier, known as 2014 MU69. Unofficially named Ultima Thule in 2018 based on a public vote, this object will be the most distant ever visited by a human spacecraft (breaking the record New Horizons itself set when it flew past Pluto).

The team says it hopes to set a new target for New Horizons once it passes Ultima Thule. With plenty of remaining fuel and equipment and instruments that remain in good condition, New Horizons is all set to head toward another distant object in the Kuiper Belt, arriving sometime in the 2020s, the team said.

 

Simulation Limitations

Simulations in Universe Sandbox are not perfect representations of reality. Rather, they’re meant to provide a visual — and as a result, a more intuitive understanding — of what is happening farther away than we can see or even imagine. With that in mind, there are a couple of limitations currently in this simulation:

1 –  Trajectory

The trajectory shown is according to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s orbital predictions as of September 2018. Additional maneuvering with thruster burns is expected, which would change the final trajectory. New Horizons will make an approach much closer than is represented in the simulation: it should pass about 3,500 km from 2014 MU69. Once actual trajectories have been recorded, we will update the simulation.

2 – Shape

Previous observations show that 2014 MU69 is likely not spherical, but rather cigar-shaped. Researchers suspect that Ultima Thule may even be two separate bodies that are either orbiting very closely as a binary or actually touching each other, which is called a contact binary. We should know more once New Horizons sends back data from its flyby! Right now, Ultima Thule is represented in Universe Sandbox as just a single, spherical body.

 

Other Far Out Objects

Update 22.1 of Universe Sandbox added three other simulations that feature very distant objects in our Solar System.

 

1 – Voyagers 1 & 2 in Interstellar Space

In November 2018, more than 40 years after its launch, and long since trips past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, the Voyager 2 probe entered interstellar space. It now joins its twin, Voyager 1, in exploring beyond our Solar System. They are expected to continue to send back data until they run out of power in 2025.

Home > Open > Voyagers 1 & 2 Start 2019 Outside the Solar System

 

2 – 2018 VG18, “Farout”

On December 17, 2018, astronomers announced the discovery of the most distant known object in the Solar System, 2018 VG18. Nicknamed “Farout” (can you guess why they chose that name?), the trans-Neptunian object is currently around 120 AU (1 AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth) from the Sun. While this object is the most distant ever observed, there are other known objects, like Sedna and the Goblin (see below), that have orbits that take them much farther from the Sun.

Farout’s orbit shown in this simulation is a preliminary estimate; its distance means it will take years of observation before its precise orbit is known.

Home > Open > 2018 VG18: The Most Distant Object in the Solar System

 

3 – 2015 TG387, “The Goblin”

On October 1, 2018, astronomers announced the discovery of the trans-Neptunian object 2015 TG387, which they nicknamed “The Goblin.” It was observed at about 80 AU from the Sun, but because of its extremely elongated orbit, it likely travels to a distance of more than 2300 AU at its farthest point.

Home > Open > 2015 TG387: A Goblin at the Edge of the Solar System

 


Far Out | Update 22.1

The orbit stretching to the bottom left is 2018 VG18, the most distant known object in the Solar System. The orbit shown here is a preliminary estimate; more accurate data will be available only after years of observation.

Run Steam to download Update 22.1, or buy Universe Sandbox via our website or the Steam Store.

This is a small update that adds a few new sims in addition to dozens of improvements and bug fixes.

Check out these sims featuring incredibly distant Solar System objects, including the recently announced 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout”:
Home > Open > 2018 VG18: The Most Distant Object in the Solar System
Home > Open > 2015 TG387: A Goblin at the Edge of the Solar System
Home > Open > Voyagers 1 & 2 Start 2019 Outside the Solar System

Don’t forget to check out New Horizons’ upcoming flyby of the most distant Solar System object ever visited, scheduled for January 1, 2019:
Home > Open > New Horizons Ultima Thule Encounter in 2019

And here are some highlights from the long list of improvements and fixes:

  • Smarter autosaves
  • Improvements & fixes for opening, saving, & sharing sims
  • Better randomized properties for randomly created objects
  • Fixes for issues with frozen fragments & missing orbit previews
  • Restored visuals for explosions & fragments

Happy holidays! Stay tuned after the New Year for a recap of this past year and a look at what we’ve got in store for 2019.

Check out a full list of What’s New in Update 22.1

Please report any issues on our forums (local forum | Steam forum) or in-game via Home > Send Feedback.