Physics games are one of my favorite time killers on the internet, and the study of planetary systems is another small hobby I like to pursue when I have fleeting moments of free time. Today I learned of a new internet game that combines the two into a game more addicting than Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, or Gem Miner combined.
Super Planet Crash is a game designed by Stefano Meschiari, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, that challenges players to create planetary systems using various stellar bodies such as Earth and super Earth-sized planets, ice giants, gas giants and even other stars such as brown dwarfs. The object is to design a solar system that is capable of making it to the 500-year milestone without having any planets or stars crash into each other or exit the solar system bounds.
The game is based on software package called Systemic Console, that is actually a tool used by scientist to discover actual planets from the massive data store generated by the Kepler space telescope project. "Systemic Console is open-source software that we've made available for other scientists to use. But we also wanted to create a portal for students and teachers so that anyone can use it," Greg Laughlin, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the development of the software, said in a statement. The game's server has been seeing massive traffic today thanks to it being featured on several large sites, so it may go down from time to time, but I was able to play it for a solid 15 minutes earlier.