The Solar System 2015

The Solar System 2015 is a short documentary movie for digital planetaria. It discusses our planetary system: the Sun, planets and smaller bodies too, their origin and fate. It is intended for pupils of grammar and high schools; sometimes we show it during programs for visitors. There exist Czech and English language versions, with footage of 25 minutes.

Screenshots | Download | About the movie česky English


As a preview, we prepared static circular images in full resolution, which should be projected onto a whole hemisphere (180°) in a planetarium. Objects may appear distorted, but if a visitor sits in our planetarium in the middle of the auditorium, the geometry of the resulting image is prefect, without any distortions. Because this kind of projection ensures a peripheric vision and, moreover, the dome is tilted by 17°, the visitor usually has a feeling of a free flight in space.

A display of trajectories of Solar System bodies, on which the distances and sizes of the bodies can be compared. For clarity, it is often necessary to speed up phenomena in the movie. The orientation of the ellipses and rotational axes with respect to the constellations corresponds to reality. The stars are only visible in full resolution, as they are (almost) point-like. A comparison of asteroids and small moons (the small bodies on the left are (4) Vesta, Amalthea and Mimas) with big moons (Io, Europa, the Moon and Titan).
Terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars. In case of Venus, the rotation of outer layers of its atmosphere is displayed (once per 4 days in retrograde direction), the solid surface rotates once per 243 days. The Sun contains 99.9 % of Solar System mass, its diameter is ten times larger than that of the largest planet Jupiter. The Earth is almost invisible here.
The view of the far side of the Moon. There are much less maria in comparison with the near side. The most important is Mare Orientale, surrounded by a multiple system of rings. A detail of martian Vallis Marineris. The genesis of giant valleys and mountains on Mars is possibly allowed by its lower gravity.
A close fly-by of asteroid (243) Ida. The asteroid has an irregular (even non-convex) shape, the largest diameter is 60 km. Io moon orbiting around Jupiter. The distance to Io is 3,200 km, to Jupiter 420,000 km.
The rings of Saturn observed from an orbit. The particles have typical sizes from 1 mm to 10 m, so we cannot observe them directly. A display of the planet Uranus with a visible rotational axis. The angle between the axis and the direction to the north ecliptic pole is 97.9 °.
The view on the Sun from the distance of 33 light years. The stars, neighbors of our Sun, are also labeled, but some of them are so faint that they are not visible by a naked eye (e.g. Proxima Centauri). Our Galaxy is of spiral type with a relatively small core and a bar. The Sun is located in the outer part of one of four spiral arms, about 8.5 kpc far from the center.
A protoplanetary disc, the environment in which bodies of the Solar System were formed from dust and gas 4.56 billion years ago. The plane of the disc is perpendicular to the direction of the total angular momentum of the system. The Sun in the phase of red giant. The star will have one hundred times larger diameter than in present, about two times lower temperature on the surface and its interior will be mainly convective (i.e. the energy from the core will be transferred mostly by convection).
An artistic concept of a small extrasolar planet of terrestrial type, orbiting around a distant star. The current observational techniques do not allow to observe so small planets, not speaking about details. Final titles with citations of sources.


The movie is prepared in Full-dome 4K format (i.e. 4096 × 4096 pixels resolution), with a frame rate 30 fps, which is the current standard for digital planetaria. It is possible to download a ZIP archive with individual images (dome masters), which are to be converted for a given projection system. We use a system delivered by Carl Zeiss Jena, with five Velvet projector - each having 2560 × 1600 pixels, native contrast 1 : 2.5 million and special lens for a projection onto a spherical screen. We should emphasize this is a really large file, which is located at the WWW server of the Astronomical Institute of Charles University:

We also offer a Czech and English audio track in Dolby Digital 5.1 format, written scenarios in Czech, English, German and Polish, and finally complete source codes for a serious work:

As a sort of preview, it is also possible to use an older version of the movie, The Solar System 2003, which was designed for a cinematic projection on a flat screen. There were also versions with a limited resolution for DVD players or Youtube.

About the movie

The whole movie was programmed in Povray language, or SDL, respectively. It is actually a text description of a scene, including motions of objects. Of course, we use object textures (cylindrical maps and bump maps), and possibly shape models, if available. The camera, used to capture the scene, is of fish-eye type, hence the 180° field of view.

A rendering of 46080 individual images was performed with Povray program, employing a raytracing technique. An antialiasing was activated at the same time, so that the image was locally created with a higher resolution than 4K. Theoretically, it would be easy to generate the movie from the same sources even at 8K resolution and 60 fps, if somebody would have such a projection system. The rendering was run on a computing cluster of the Astronomical Institute of Charles University and took several days.

Regarding the bodies of the Solar System, we always tried to use correct (i.e. common) scales for both dimensions and distances, including corresponding ephemerides. The maps of starry sky up to the magnitude 12 are generated from Tycho catalogue via Postscript, in order to achieve best appearance on Velvet projection system, after a full adaptation of eyes to darkness.

The music of Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák originates from MIDI files. We used program Timitidy and Eawpatches for a conversion to WAV format. With the help of Sox, we then applied algorithms similar to those in Dolby Pro Logic II to obtain a six-channel sound track. A final mixing of music and narration was done in Blender. The music is stored in L, R, LFE, SL and SR channels, while the narration is in C, which sounds beautifully on our audio system (Asus Xonar, Denon, Yamaha, Crown, JBL).

Finally, it is necessary to admit at least two flaws which we are aware of: (i) The raytracing is to a point "an art of compromise"; the scene has to be foremost sufficiently simple, in order we are able to program it. In fact, it is impossible to achieve exactly the same image as we would see by our eyes. Occasionally, there might be artefacts present in the image, caused e.g. by round-off errors (even in double precision). (ii) The recordings of spoken language are a bit older (from 2003) and sadly they were recorded without a pop filter, what can be sometimes heard during pronunciation. It turned out also that the signal-to-noise ratio is never sufficiently high; consequently we tried to apply noise suppression algorithms in Audacity program.

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