Starry Night 7: Streaming Data On-Demand


    Starry Night Pro Plus 6, when fully installed, occupied more than 10GBs of disk space. The sheer size of it required jumping through lots of technological hoops; from huge downloads to special DVDs, each with their own set of gotchas. This led to a lot of problems, all to deliver every last bit of data, much of which might never be accessed!

    With the ever expanding volumes of interesting astronomical data available to the general public, as well as the near ubiquitous availability of high-speed internet access, Starry Night 7 was designed with a new mantra... deliver it on-demand!

    Not wanting to sacrifice our tradition of beautifully simulating huge sets of astronomical data, we designed a new, robust system to stream the high-resolution, or rarely accessed data as its needed.

    Not only do we now have the ability to deliver you, our users, essentially infinite amounts of astronomical data, but we can now deliver you ONLY that data which you want.

    The system, at its base, is quite simple:

    Zoom in on a particular piece of the sky, descend onto Mars, or choose one of dozens of available horizon panoramas and Starry Night checks your local hard disk for the necessary files. If they're found, they're loaded into the sky. If not, Starry Night makes a request to our servers to download the necessary data, streaming it to your computer where it will remain for the next time you need it.

    This was done in a very limited way in Starry Night 6... only very dim USNO stars were served up by this system.

    We have since expanded on that (and will continue to expand on that) to include the AllSkyImage layer and dozens of high-resolution planet surface textures. Horizon Panoramas are next to come along with individual object data, and more and deeper databases.

    Some 27 GBs of data rests on our servers, waiting to be streamed! Sit back, zoom in, and enjoy!

    By David Whipps