Last update: Nov 14, 2001

Click here for the ultimate FREE space simulator


  What is OpenUniverse?
   Strictly spoken it's a piece of software, simulating the Solar System's bodies in 3D on your Windows or Linux PC (will work in most *NIX's as well). In difference to quite a few other programs it does so in realtime. Meaning you can view all the planets, moons and spaceships move along their paths, trace them, follow them, orbit them and even control them (time and spaceship contol). And you won't have to fight your way through hordes of green, slimey and one-eyed aliens for that ;-)

OpenUniverse (OU) was formely known as Solar System Simulator (Ssystem). It was initially released on Nov 1997 with the intention to create a rotating Earth display on a main stream PC. Since these early roots a continuing development and expansion has taken place. Was version 1.0 only aware of the major bodies (planets), version 1.2 added a whole bunch of moons. Solar System v1.6 then added more ways of movement for the user's eye (camera) within Solar System's virtual universe and last but not least better textures for a lot of bodies. This version, called OpenUniverse (OU) finally has been renamed to underline the concept behind the further development of the program: Open for the whole Universe, not just the solar system. Open to use, extend and change. Finally open for all users, programmers and for you. :)

  Who's that guy?
Yeah, after years of search we've found the holy grail at last. WE HAVE A LOGO!!! (background music). You may be wondering what's that logo supposed to mean, well, we don't know (don't tell anyone). One of these days i'll tell you more about this shiny metal guy :-)

  Hardware/Software Requirements

- Linux/Unix or Windows 95/98/NT/2000

- 3D card (not required but strongly recommended)

      any card with decent OpenGL support, i.e.:

             - Voodoo Graphics, Voodoo2 and Voodoo Rush

             - Riva 128

             - Riva TNT/TNT2

             - GeForce / GeForce2
- Mesa 3.2 or above (Other OpenGL 1.1 compliant libraries should work)

- GLUT 3.7 (included in Mesa 3.2 Demos distribution)

- Independent JPEG Group's JPEG library
- GLUI 2.0 if you want the GUI (currently in beta).

If you just download the binaries you won't need most of the above. A working OpenGL driver should be enough (hopefully)


   A few screens captured from OpenUniverse running at 640x480 in windowed mode. Just click on the images to see a full size screenshot. These screenshots don't make justice to the real thing though :-).




  • Linux/UNIX:

    Beta3 (source code only)    Site 1

You'll need Mesa 3.2, GLUT 3.7 (you don't need glut if you've downloaded MesaDemos) and optionally GLUI. See Requirements.

  • Windows 95/98/NT/2000

    Beta3 (binaries and source code) Site 1

    Make sure you have working OpenGL drivers before complaining :-).

  • OpenUniverse high resolution pack

    Very high resolution Earth, Mars and Io maps Site 1

  • This is a must if you have a GeForce card. Just uncompress this file and copy the JPEGs to the textures directory.


    OpenUniverse's already using high resolution maps. However, maybe some of you (especially those owning new generation 3D cards) are interested on HIGHER resolution maps. In this section i'll be posting VERY HIGH RESOLUTION MAPS. Be aware that these maps are memory (I've included a required memory field to the table below so you may guess whether a map is for you or not) and bandwidth hungry so, please, don't download a map unless you're sure it will work for you.


Body Image size File size Required memory
Moon 4096x2048 1913 KB 8 MB
Mars 4096x2048 821 KB 24 MB
Mars 8192x4096 13.3 MB 96 MB


    To install these high-res maps just copy them to the textures directory (rename file to prevent overwriting the old one) and then edit the ou.conf file. To install the Mars map you have to do this:

  • Download the file, rename it (say marshigh.jpg) and copy it to the textures directory
  • Edit ou.conf and:
    • Locate Mars section and replace "mars.jpg" with "marshigh.jpg"
    • You may have to modify the slices and/or stacks values in the config file. Try with powers of two (any other even value may work but you'll have to find them following the trial and error procedure :-) )
    • Run OpenUniverse and be patient, it may take a while to load the maps
IF YOUR SYSTEM IS NOT POWERFUL ENOUGH TO HANDLE THESE MAPS, DOWNSAMPLE THEM TO A LOWER POWER OF TWO (a 2048x1024 map takes four times less memory than a 4096x2048 map).



    Guess what happens when you mix imperfection and lazyness? Yeah, i'm afraid there're a few bugs. Fortunately, they won't wipe out you hard disk (yet).

    We think we're aware of most of them so if you've discovered a bug double check the bug tracking page before reporting them.

  Mailing Lists / Discussion Forums

    Thanks to the SourceForge guys now we have mailing lists and public discussion boards available. What are you waiting for?, go take a look:

Mailing Lists:

  • Developer (if you'd like to help us out subscribe and start hacking :-)
  • Announce (you'll receive an e-mail whenever a new version is available)
  • Bugs (bug reports, hacks, quick fixes, ...)

Discussion Forums (sourceforge log in required):

Message Boards:

    If don't have anything better to do you may want to visit our project page on SourceForge. Don't forget to rate OU ;-)


Mesa Homepage
The best choice for your OpenGL programs

GLUT Homepage A must have for the beginner.

Independant JPEG Group ftp archive JPEG library

Microsoft OpenGL for Windows 95 Software only OpenGL DLLs

A Space Library Map projections and ... a GREAT Solar System Simulator
Approximate astronomical positions Keith Burnett's homepage
Hitchhiker  App to display the relative motions of the planets in our Solar System.

Shuttle A shuttle simulator
Earth and Moon viewer Interactive views
Björn Jónsson's homepage
Probably the best planetary maps/rendering out there
James Hastings-Trew homepage Very nice planetary maps



OpenUniverse is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Basically it means OU is free. However, keep in mind i'm not the copyright holder of most of the texture maps included.  

Well, as i said above OU is free but if you really like it and you think i deserve some support i'd accept hardware donations (3D cards i don't have access to so i can test OU) or anything from this wishlist


     Thanks to all the people who had help me since i started this little project (in late 1997), but i'm especially grateful to:

  • Axel Groll
  • Paul Rademacher
  • Sébastien Métrot
  • Alfonso del Pozo
  • Everyone at Laser Internet Center
  • Brian Paul
  • Mark Kilgard
  • Daryll Strauss
  • David Bucciarelli
  • Curtis L. Olson
  • The Independent JPEG Group
  • Elwood Charles Downey
  • Keith Burnett
  • Kevin Kamel
  • Rafael Barberá
  • Aaron Worley
  • Mike Oliphant and Rob Clark
  • Elias Martenson
  • Andrey Zakhvatov
  • John Kilburg and Bill Spitzak
  • Bjorn Jonsson
  • Larry Manley
  • Tigran A. Aivazian
  • Nacho and Dawn
  • The Living Earth, Inc
  • Mike Latinovich of SkySys
  • Richard Jones
  • All of you who sent me support messages ... i appreciate it :-)

    Although OpenUniverse is far from what I'd like, I think the program is quite interesting, especially with 3D hardware acceleration. If you have ideas to improve it, comments, suggestions or whatever drop me a line.

Raúl Alonso
ralonsoalvar at gmail

"That Man is the product of causes which had not prevision of the end they were achieving; are but the outcome of accidental collocation of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the age, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins -- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

Bertrand Russell (1923)

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