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Interactive Models of the Universe

These are standalone interactive models of galaxies, quasars and the cosmic microwave background as found by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. (Further Details)

The following downloads are for Windows (Linux versions to follow soon). Unzip each zip file into a new folder, then look for batch files to click on. Batch files come in pairs, e.g. blah.bat and blah_geowall.bat. The former is for regular single-screen computers and the latter is for GeoWalls. These files are large; you can only run them on recent computers with good graphics cards.

The zip files here include a binary of the open source 3d viewer Partiview, by Stuart Levy of the NCSA. You don't need to download it separately, it's included in what you download from here.

  • (32Mb). Starts out at the sun or local group (there are two versions, owing to clipping problems with older graphics cards - try the latter first), zooming back (right mouse button down, mouse move back, right mouse button up while mous e still moving back) takes you through a nice galactic slice (you'll see what that means...). You can turn on distance spheres of a thousand, million or billion light years.
  • (25Mb) Cosmic Microwave Background (from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) and Galaxies and Quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Galaxies are represented by points, if you want them represented by galaxy pictures (and have a really high-end machine) try this larger version (40Mb).

Stereo Photographs of Observatories

The zip files here contain stereo photographs that you can use with Wallview on a Geowall. Unzip these files into a new folder on your computer, download and install Wallview separately, and then open the GWD file in the folder with Wallview.

Wallview only works on Windows; if you are running Linux or OS X, try Viewer instead.


These are movies made of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Cosmic Microwave Background from WMAP. (Further Details)

Right clicking on a link allows you to save it to your hard drive. Loading it in your browser from there is faster. On Macs with one-button mice, press CTRL at the same time you press the mouse button.

View these using Quicktime or Windows Media Player or MpegTV; we've had trouble with RealPlayer.

3d models of observatories

These zip files contain 3d models of telescopes and observatories that can be viewed using one of two ways. Of course, first you should unzip them into new folders.

If your web browser (e.g. Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Safari, Netscape) has a special VRML-plugin installed (installation instructions), then you can just click on the VRML file (it has the extension .wrl) in the folder.

If you have a GeoWall, download and install Walkabout from the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and then open the WBT file in the folder with it. Navigating in Walkabout with a keyboard is easy; use the arrow keys to move your body, E and C to move your head.

Interactive Globes

Click on any of the links below to download a zip file, open it in a new folder, then click on a batch file, in a similar manner to the interactive universe model above. (Further Details)


Cosmus: Virtual 3D Cosmology in Public Science Museums. Paper written and presented at Virtual Reality for Public Consumption, IEEE's Virtual Reality 2004 Workshop.

Studying Visitor Engagement in Virtual Reality Based Children's Science Museum Exhibits.: Masters Thesis by Joi Podgorny written on evaluation study using modules from the Cosmus project, June 2004.

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