Speaking with a friend, an old game came to my mind. 15 years ago I started playing “Elite II“, a space trade game, probably one of the firsts where there is no final objective, just interaction with the world. You could trade items between star systems, do all kind of jobs, improve your ship getting more space cargo and weapons, and travel throught the galaxy, literally. You could fight in battles as well, but this part bothered me. Trading throught the galaxy was the best part. It was full of star systems, with planets and space stations to visit. This was one of the most impressive feature, specially if you take in mind the game came in one 3.5 disk (720Kb), but actually all stars positions were fake, programatically generated, so the only true thing of them were their names. A small pity.
I downloaded it (now it counts as abandonware), and using Wine on Linux I saw again its generated maps. Moreover I’d like to explore its open source “mirror”, Oolite.
I thought it would be nice to create some kind of space trading game using real star data. Of course programing a game takes ages, but maybe I can create a small trading web-game just with some features. So I started to look for some stars catalogs ready to download, with some real data. Finally I found one quite small but with useful data, like the galactic coordinates of every star, and bright magnitude and spectral type. Just playing with gnuplot I got this image of our galaxy (biasing longitude, click to show it bigger). As you can see most of the stars are in the plane of the galaxy, with a dense cluster between -20 and 20 degrees of latitude… so keep your ship in that range!