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About these pages

Planetary maps
Space renderings
Images and mosaics
POV-Ray models
Cassini stuff (mostly outdated)

Planetary rendering tips
Experimental renderings
Copyright and legal stuff

Software utilities


International Association of Astronomical Artists

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Welcome to my website! These pages are devoted to astronomy and 3D computer graphics, particularly renderings and maps of the planets and satellites of our solar system and the spacecraft that have explored them. Many of the renderings are done with a specialized planetary renderer I wrote for this purpose. The goal behind this is for the renderings to be as similar as possible to spacecraft photos. Other renderings are created with POV-Ray or by combining renderings from my renderer and POV-Ray. There are also several planetary maps at this site which you can download and use in your own renderings.

If anyone uses the maps/models available here I'm interested in knowing about it (I'm interested in planetary art/science as you may have guessed by now). Finally, if you have any special opinions on this stuff let me know.

What's new

  • 15.04.2012: A fairly big update. Completely revamped the animations page, it is now mostly a collection of links to YouTube and Vimeo where I now store my animations. The animations include a spectacular flight over Saturn's satellite Enceladus among other things. Added a spectacular new Voyager 2 mosaic of Jupiter's Great Red Spot to the Images and mosaics page. Added several new renderings of Mimas and Enceladus to the Saturn page. They are created using very high resolution digital elevation models I'm working on. Added a global DEM of Io that is mostly fictional; the position of Io's major mountains should be correct though.
  • 17.04.2011: Updated the Images and mosaics section a bit by replacing a Voyager 2 global view of Jupiter with a bigger and significantly improved version. I also added huge Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 mosaics of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Apparently the Voyager 1 mosaic is what's best known of all of my work here so far.
  • 31.01.2010: Added two new renderings of Mars. They are a big improvement over old ones. Despite this I left the old renderings there for the time being because it is interesting to compare the new renderings to the old ones. The old ones will be removed sometime in the future. Thanks to more powerful computers, better software, new spacecraft data and a lot of work the new ones are a huge improvement over the roughly 10 year old stuff they supersede.
  • 04.01.2010: Added two new renderings to the  the Earth/Moon page showing the Earth together with the Moon. This is the first time I have been able to get nice renderings of the Moon at fairly high resolution, thanks to a recently released digital elevation model (DEM) derived from data from Japan's Kaguya spacecraft. Minor changes to the links page.
  • 03.10.2009: Replaced everything on the Earth/Moon page with new stuff done using a new and greatly improved version of my planetary renderer. The old renderings were done back in 1998 and 1999 and were awfully primitive compared to what I'm doing today. The new ones have proper atmospheric effects, a cloud map, specular reflections from the oceans etc. I'm not completely happy with the new renderings, the Earth is probably the most difficult planet to render (in particular I need a better cloud map). Also my atmospheric model is still under development. Despite this I'm replacing everything because the old stuff really was too bad to keep it here. Now the next step is to replace the almost 10 year old renderings of Mars with vastly improved versions with proper atmospheric effects etc. (in fact there is a lot of old stuff here that really needs to be replaced). Also minor updates to the links section (which really needs a major overhaul).
  • 11.08.2009: Added two renderings to the Saturn page showing the Cassini spacecraft near the moment of Saturn's equinox which occurs today.
  • 24.06.2009: Again no, this page isn't dead ;-). A lot of time has been spent processing Cassini data and this update reflects this fact. I now have an almost global digital elevation model (DEM) of Rhea. Updated the experimental renderings page with information on this DEM of Rhea. Also added a new color and albedo map of Rhea. This map is unusual because the goal was to show color and albedo - not topography. Finally I added two new renderings to the Saturn page and also replaced a few old ones with new versions. There is a lot of photogenic stuff to render in the Saturn system once I have more and better models of its satellites - the plan is to build DEMs of all of Saturn's icy satellites...
  • 26.07.2008: No, this page isn't dead. It's just that I've been terribly busy processing Cassini data and other stuff - I just love being swamped in data. The first fruit of this work now appears: An updated map of Saturn based on Cassini data. For the southern hemisphere the improvement is big but the northern hemisphere is still based on Voyager data since it has been largely in shadow for most of Cassini's mission. Actually I finished this map a while ago but I recently improved it a bit. More stuff involving the Saturn system, Io, Venus and Mercury should appear sometime in the next several months plus a lot of experimental stuff based on DEMs (digital elevation models) of Saturn's satellites derived from stereo images.
  • 13.03.2007: Added several renderings involving Rayleigh scattering and atmospheric refraction to the experimental renderings page. Replaced several renderings on the Saturn page with improved versions and added two new ones. These new images are rendered using a very high resolution map of Saturn based Cassini images that I recently finished. The photometric parameters for Saturn and the rings have also been significantly improved. More renderings will be replaced soon.
  • 30.09.2006: Replaced all of the renderings of Venus with new versions and added two new ones showing the Galileo and Cassini flybys. The old ones were done back in 1999 so the new ones are a significant improvement, for example the color and contrast is more realistic. The new renderings are the first ones at this site (except for some experimental renderings) done with my renderer using Rayleigh scattering. Despite this I am not completely convinced my code is working correctly in all cases. Narrow, dark areas appear near the poles in some cases. While I can understand why they appear from the way my renderer works they may be too prominent or should possibly not be there at all - I don't remember seeing similar features in spacecraft photos. Now all that is left is to replace most of the renderings of Saturn and all of the renderings of the Earth, Mercury and Mars...
  • 23.09.2006: Added two new renderings to the Saturn page and replaced two of the old ones. These are the first renderings incorporating Cassini results and/or data and should be more realistic than the old ones, especially the unlit side of the rings. Once I have updated my Saturn texture map and improved my renderer a bit I will replace everything on the Saturn page with improved stuff (in particular, the old renderings showing Mimas are bad).
  • 28.05.2006: Added a new rendering of Saturn to the experimental renderings page. It shows an attempt to simulate the bluish color of Saturn's winter hemisphere discovered by Cassini. The photometric parameters used for rendering Saturn have also been refined based on Cassini images. In the coming months I will probably replace almost everything on the Saturn page with something better. Minor changes to a few pages.
  • 27.03.2006: Added a new map of Jupiter based on images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This map is of higher resolution than my older Voyager 2 map and it is of somewhat higher quality. Since the Cassini imaging science team released a new map of Jupiter today it seemed appropriate for me to do so too ;-).
  • 16.03.2006: Replaced four renderings on the Jupiter page with improved versions. The new versions are rendered using my new texture map that is based on Cassini images of Jupiter. This map is of higher resolution than my older Voyager 2 map so the improvement is significant since these renderings include closeups of Jupiter's dynamic atmosphere.
  • 05.02.2006: Added a rendering of Jupiter to the experimental renderings page. It is rendered using a very high resolution map of Jupiter based on Cassini images that I recently finished. This map is 50% bigger than my Voyager 2 map and its quality is better. Also added renderings of Amalthea to the experimental renderings page. They are rendered using a 3D model of Amalthea I am working on. Added two new renderings of Amalthea to the Jupiter page and updated an old one where Amalthea is visible. These may improve in the future since I am still working on the Amalthea model. Where Jupiter is visible it is rendered using the new texture map. I may soon replace more renderings on the Jupiter page thanks to the new map and software improvements. Also I am getting unhappy with many of the renderings on the Saturn page thanks to the flood of spectacular Cassini images.
  • 01.11.2005: Added several images of Mars to the astronomy page.
  • 06.05.2005: Added three renderings of the Earth to the experimental renderings page. They show experiments involving Rayleigh scattering in my PT3RT renderer - experiments that are still not completely successful but they look promising.
  • 21.02.2005: Added a preliminary map of Enceladus to the Cassini page. It is based on three images from Cassini's T3 flyby.
  • 12.02.2005: Added a rendering showing ringshine on Saturn's nightside to the experimental renderings page. This looks much more realistic than rendering the nightside either completely black or with ambient light of uniform intensity. The success of this experiment means that soon I'll replace several renderings on the Saturn page.
  • 05.02.2005: Added new page containing Cassini-related stuff, including preliminary maps of some of the icy satellites. This is a preliminary page that should change a lot in the coming weeks/months. Updated and rearranged stuff in the links section. Minor updates to a few pages.
  • 03.01.2005: Added an experimental Saturn ringshine map to the experimental renderings page. This is an attempt to simulate ringshine on Saturn's nightside.
  • 10.10.2004: Added a color profile to the Saturn ring profile page. It is based on a recent Cassini spacecraft image. Updated, renamed and reorganized the Copyright and legal stuff page and made it easier to read.
  • 09.09.2004: Added some stuff to the astronomy page, including a separate What's new page.
  • 28.08.2004: Completely revamped the astronomy page and added a lot of new stuff there. More images will be added in the coming weeks, I have a lot of stuff that I haven't processed yet.
  • 05.06.2004: It suddenly occurred to me that it might be possible to create a fake bump/elevation map of Callisto from a grayscale texture map that would enable me to get much better renderings of the terminator (day-night boundary) area. This became a spectacularly successful experiment, especially in view of the fact that it took less than 15 minutes ! As a result I have updated a few Callisto renderings on the Jupiter page. One remaining problem is that faint seams are visible in several areas in the bump map. I plan to fix this and update at least one of the Callisto renderings again in the near future.
  • 30.05.2004: Added several renderings to the Saturn page. They show NASA's Cassini spacecraft near the time of the rocket burn that will slow it down, enabling it to get captured by Saturn's gravity and start orbiting the ringed planet. More Cassini related stuff will be added in the coming weeks/months.
  • 26.04.2004: Added several renderings of Mars' Gusev crater to the experimental renderings page. This is the landing site of NASA's Spirit rover.
  • 23.04.2004: No updates recently, I've been busy moving all of my stuff to a new computer. The old one became completely swamped with video data when I started imaging the planets with a webcamera (see the astronomy page which BTW needs to be updated ASAP) but now I have a 3 GHz machine with 1.5 GB of RAM and 370 GB of diskspace. However, this is a fairly significant update, I replaced the model of Saturn's rings with a completely new version which is of higher resolution and where the positional accuracy is much better. Minor updates to the links section.
  • 29.01.2004: Updated the spacecraft page by replacing all renderings of the Cassini spacecraft with new ones. These show a version of my model of the spacecraft that is very close to what the final version will look like. Colors and textures may change a little but the 'geometric modeling' is complete.
  • 01.01.2004: Added a new section, Astronomy. This section will contain amateur astronomy stuff, mainly my observations of solar system bodies. At the moment there's not much there except for a mosaic of the Moon and images of my telescope and camera.

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