Note about scientific accuracy



Handling philosophy



Orbital camera

Free camera

Mouse controls layout



Planet shortcuts

Handling the camera

Camera controls keyboard layout


Entering dates manually

Time controls keyboard layout


Data controls keyboard layout


The main menu

The planet gallery

Reducing orbits

Special controls keyboard layout


Additional note about TV or monitor adjustment



Leaving the Solar System

Entering the Solar System

Visiting extrasolar systems


Automatic sequential advance




The star selector

Activate or deactivate the selection

Nebulae, clusters, and galaxies selectors





How to use and handle video games

APPENDIX I: Description of scientific codes

APPENDIX II: Minimum recommended system requirements

APPENDIX III: MPL3D Solar System v1.2 -  Menu Options & Features





Welcome to MPL3D Solar System, a real-time simulation about our close Universe.

The objective of the simulation is to provide a visual tool, with easy handling, to increase the user's understanding about the place that we hold in the Universe.

You can visit the stars with a simple mouse click, select the ones you want to see, and observe their evolution through time. It is also possible to visit most of the known planets, inside and outside our own Solar System. Likewise, most known nebulae and star clusters are represented, as well as several galaxies.

Note about scientific accuracy

Real data has been used to represent all visitable stars, planets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies, and most of them can be observed at night with the naked eye. Best practices have been used to calculate derived data when needed, using real data to obtain it. However, there are other scientific approaches that may output different results. Artistic concepts have been applied for those bodies with unknown appearance, or to enhance the user's perception about some particular phenomenon.



When the application starts, this screen is shown:

There are four options to choose from:

Start the program.
Show the keyboard and mouse layouts.
Open the configuration menu in order to choose program quality while running.
Watch credits to people who have contributed to the creation of MPL3D Solar System.



Press 'Start' from the initial menu.

When the simulation begins, the Earth will be shown at its current position in space, inside the Solar System. The camera orbits the Earth with mouse movement.


Handling philosophy

Handling philosophy is very simple: with the 'left mouse button' you advance to the next celestial body, with the 'right mouse button' you reverse to the previous celestial body, and while pressing the 'center wheel mouse button' you switch between orbital camera and free camera.

This way, if we press the 'left mouse button' when we are watching Earth, we will travel to the Moon. Whereas if we press the 'right mouse button', we will travel to Venus:

In the same manner, we can have access to all Solar System planets and their moons. The different modes for direct access to these celestial bodies are explained further on.

To access the main menu, press the 'space bar'. If you want to quit the simulation, press 'Escape'.



When you press the 'Controls' button, this screen is shown:

With this screen you can open the mouse and keyboard control layouts.

Although most of the basic functions can be controlled with the mouse, the keyboard controls provide important functions such as changing time speed or returning to the Solar System.



Mouse movement is used to move the camera in orbital mode, and to orientate the camera in free mode. The possible actions are explained here:


Moves camera around the orbited body.

Orientates camera to the pointed direction.
Next celestial body.

Click: Select object.

Keep pressed: Rotates camera in Z axis.


Previous celestial body.

Object selection request.

Cancel object selection request.

Switch to free camera mode.
Switch to orbital camera mode.
Cancel actual trip.
Gets the camera closer and farther from the orbited body.
Increases or decreases camera zoom.

As you can see, the 'center wheel mouse button' is used to switch to free camera mode when in orbital camera mode, and vice-versa.


The orbital camera

The orbital camera is the default camera mode in the simulation. In this mode, the camera always points to the center of the celestial body orbited at that moment.

If orbital camera mode is not set, switch to it at any time by pressing the 'center wheel mouse button' (or 'Enter' key).

Mouse movement, in orbital camera mode, moves the camera around the orbited body.

Roll the 'mouse wheel' to change the orbiting distance. Hold 'Shift' for a higher speed or 'Right Control' for a smooth movement.

The right and left button clicks are used for advancing forward or backward, respectively, between the celestial bodies, as described in section "Handling philosophy".

To know more in detail about the sequential navigation order and the object selection operation, review the "Sequential navigation" and "Navigation and object selection" sections.

Read the "Handling the camera" section to know about the handling of the orbital camera using the keyboard.


The free camera

Enter the free camera mode by pressing the 'center wheel mouse button' (or 'F' key). In this mode, mouse movement is used for pointing the camera, while the 'arrow keys' are used for moving:


To know more about free camera mode, visit the "Free Navigation" section.


Mouse controls layout



All the additional funtions of the program are controlled with the keyboard. These are divided in four categories:





Each one of them is described here:



The function of each key may vary according to the current camera mode. Those variations are described here:

Orbit the Sun.
In a system with orbiting bodies (or barycenters), the camera orbits the body nº.


Moves camera near the orbited object.
Moves camera forward.
Moves camera away from the orbited object.
Moves camera backward.
Moves camera right.
Moves camera left.


Moves near the orbited object - minimum distance.


Moves away from the orbited object - minimum distance.
Moves near the orbited object - medium distance.
Moves away from the orbited object - medium distance.
Moves near the orbited object - maximum distance.
Moves away from the orbited object - maximum distance.
Switch to orbital camera mode.
Switch to free camera mode.
Moves camera up.
Orientates camera upwards.
Moves camera down.
Orientates camera downwards.
Moves camera up.
Moves camera down.
, (comma)
Orientates camera leftwards.
. (period)
Orientates camera rightwards.
Decrease camera speed. Press at the same time as movement keys.

Increase camera speed. Press at the same time as movement keys.

(The longer the movement keys and/or the 'Shift' key are kept pressed, the faster the camera will move.

Activates or deactivates the automatic magnification (or zoom). When activated (by default), after using the magnification, it decreases automatically to the normal magnification.


Planet shortcuts

To go directly to a planet without using sequential navigation, press the corresponding function key from inside of a system: 'F2' being the first planet or center of mass, and 'F12' the last possible.

The shortcut keys to planets only work inside the system itself. To know how to enter or exit systems, see "Entering and leaving systems".

Planets cannot be selected directly with the object selectors (although their stars can), but they can always be selected as a visible object from the free camera.

To facilitate the visual localization of the planets, activate the names with the 'N' key. Also, orbits can be reduced with the 'S' key. Increasing ambiental light from the configuration menu facilitates the location and the visualization of the planets as well.

If you want to view an extrasolar planet, select its star with the star selector and travel to the system to visit it directly or sequentially.

These are the function keys values for the planet shortcuts inside the Solar System:

Comet Halley
Asteroid Belt (only if activated)


Handling the camera

The most useful keys for handling the camera are the 'arrow keys'. They are used for getting the camera closer to or farther from a selected object. The keys corresponding to getting closer/farther in predetermined gaps are: 'Insert/Delete', 'Home/End', and 'Previous page/Next page'.

The predetermined gap keys are designed to save time in the movement of the camera, and to avoid having to press the arrow keys too many times in order to get closer or farther:

For example, 'Previous page' will locate us as near as possible to the orbited object, normally until it fills most of the screen. If you try to keep on getting closer from orbital camera, the camera magnification or zoom will activate.

Its opposite key is 'Next page'. It takes us as far away as possible from the orbited object. The maximum orbit distance depends of the kind of orbited object. Whilst for the galaxies the maximum distance is half a million light years; for the standard stars, the maximum distance is about 15,000 light years. For planets and moons or stars with orbits, the maximum distance is 100 astronomic units (A.U.).

If you wish to get closer or farther with an intermediate distance, use 'Home' and 'End' respectively. For instance, for the stars it allows you to get farther or closer in gaps of 100 light years, while for the planets the gaps are of 10 astronomic units.

Finally, 'Insert' and 'Delete' get closer or farther in minimum gaps, respectively. For the stars the minimum gap is 10 light years, while for the planets the minimum gap is 1 A.U. (the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

During the automatic transition of the camera, the text "Travelling" will be shown at the central bottom side of the screen. While the text remains in the screen, the camera won't obey mouse orders. However, if you wish to cancel the trip at anytime, it can be cancelled by pressing 'Up arrow' or 'Down arrow'.

The trip can also be cancelled by switching to free camera mode, which is done by pressing the 'F' key or clicking the 'wheel mouse button'. If you wish to cancel the trip with the mouse while staying in orbital camera mode, simply double click the 'wheel mouse button'.

The automatic camera transition will leave you orbiting at the same distance that you were orbiting the previous body, or at the current distance, if you are nearer than the previous orbiting distance.

To speed up the camera hold down 'Shift', while to slow it down, hold down 'Right Control'.


Keyboard camera controls layout



Advancing forward or backward in time within the simulation can be controlled with these keys:

+ (plus)
Increase speed to the next factor.
Maximum factor 10.
- (minus)
Decrease speed to the next factor.
Minimum factor -10.
Small factor increasing.
Press at the same time as '+' or '-' to get inter-factors values.
* (asterisk)
Sets to normal speed.
1 second in the simulation is equal to 1 second in the real world.
0 (zero)
Return to the current date and hour and set normal speed.
Represents the current location of the celestial bodies.
Enter date. A menu will be shown to enter the desired date.
The limits go from the 1st of January of 1800 to the 31st of december of 2199.

There are 20 speed factors that can be changed with '+' and '-' keys ('plus' and 'minus'): 10 positive speed factors to advance time (from +1 to +10), and 10 negative speed factors to reverse time (from -1 to -10).

To increase or decrease time speed with smaller amounts, hold down 'Right Control' while pressing '+' or '-' ('plus' or 'minus').


Enter dates manually

A date and a time can be entered directly to locate the celestial bodies at a specific moment. On pressing the 'E' key, the next screen shows up:

Enter the desired date and time in their corresponding fields, or press the calendar button to choose a date from it. Choose the desired date from the calendar and press 'Accept' to return to the previous screen.

On entering the time, that value is taken as the local time for the time zone set in the operating system. That is, you have to enter the time that your local clock shows. Universal Time (UT) will be calculated automatically.


Keyboard time controls layout



The information that the program shows can be displayed or hidden with the following keys:

Shows or hides time information.
Includes actual local date and time, simulation date and time, Universal Time (UT) and date, and the actual time speed factor of the simulation.
Switch between showing names, showing names + data, and hide all.
Press to switch between the different options.
Show scientific data.
When names + data is activated, it will show the available scientific data.
Switch between showing constellations, showing constellations + constellation boundaries, and hide all.

Press to switch between the different options.

The constellation boundaries can only be seen from the Solar System.

If you travel outside the Solar System, only the constellation of the currently orbited star will be shown.

Shows or hides planet orbits.
In multiple star systems, star orbits and star barycenters are represented.

The time information will be shown in the left upper part of the screen, while the data of each celestial body shows up underneath them.

The information showed for each object depends on the kind of object we are orbiting.

When names are activated, if an activated selection exists and if we are near enough, the name will show up at all the stars and celestial objects that fulfill the established conditions. (To select stars or other objects, establish and activate or deactivate selection conditions see "Using the object selector").


Keyboard data controls layout




There are certain additional functions to handle the application. The most important is the 'space bar' that opens the main menu, and the 'M' key that is used for marking or unmarking the object selection made at the selectors.


Show main menu.

Used for accesing the object selectors, configuration, controls and credits.
Mark or unmark selected objects.

Activates or deactivates the established selection at the object selectors.

Marking the selection allows the sequential navigation with orbital camera through the selected objects with minimum effort.

Go to the next kind of object.

It is used for orbiting the next kind of object. The order of the types is: Stars->Singularity->Nebulae->Clusters->Galaxies.

Activate or deactivate planet gallery.
Presents all the bodies of a system in order.
Activate or deactivate reduced orbits.
Reduces orbits in size for better observation. There are three sizes to choose from: normal, medium, and minimum.
Save the current screen to disk.
The current screen is saved at "Screenshots" directory. The file name results from the orbited object and the simulation date. The file type is .bmp.
Activate or deactivate random travel.

The simulation will travel randomly through the celestial bodies, staying 20 seconds on each of them.

It is possible to continue using the mouse, the camera controls, data, time, etc.

Activate or deactivate the automatic sequential travel.

The simulation will travel sequentially through the selected celestial bodies, staying 20 seconds at each of them.

It is possible to continue using the mouse, the camera controls, data, time, etc.
Activates or deactivate the auto-orbit function.

It automatically orbits the selected celestial body.

It is possible to continue using the mouse, the camera controls, data, time, etc.

`, ~ (grave accent, tilde)
Show or hide statistics
Shows or hides exploration statistics about the visited bodies in the simulation.
Quit from the simulation.
To quit from the simulation, press accept in the confirmation dialog.


The main menu

By pressing the 'space bar' in the simulation, the main menu, which can be used to access the object selectors, controls layouts, configuration and credits, will be shown as follows:

Press any button to open the corresponding option or press the arrow at the bottom-left corner to return to the simulation.



The planet gallery

The planet gallery orderly disposes all the bodies that orbit in a determined system. This allows an easy comparison between the size and aspects of planets and moons of a system.

The planet gallery is activated by pressing the 'G' key. For instance, at the Solar System, the planets and moons will be arranged as follows:

The camera automatically selects the first planet as the object (in this case Mercury), and switches to orbital mode.

This function is also available for systems with extrasolar planets and for binary and multiple star systems; in the latter case, the stars that conform the systems will be shown in order in the same way as the planets of other systems.

If you wish to leave planet gallery, press 'G' again.


Reducing orbits

In most of the systems, the celestial bodies are too separated for practical comparisons. To understand the orbits and positions of these celestial bodies more clearly, orbital radii can be reduced by using the 'S' key.

During the process orbit reduction, the controls become momentarily frozen. It is recommended to activate the planet orbits plot by pressing 'O' to appreciate the transition between the different size options.

There are three size options: normal, medium, and minimum. Use the 'S' key to switch between them.

The size of the planets or stars doesn´t change except for the minimum size of the Solar System, in which the size of the Sun is reduced for a better observation:

This function is also available for systems with extrasolar planets, and for multiple or binary star systems.

The reduced size doesn't change orbital periods, and all simulation controls are still available.


Special controls keyboard layout



The simulation can be configured to show more or less detail to adapt it to the performance of your computer. You can access the configuration screen from the initial menu or from the simulation menu by pressing the 'space bar' and then the 'Configuration' button. The following screen will be opened:

If you click at the bottom-right corner arrow, the following additional options will be opened:

These are the available options:


Change screen resolution (*)
1600x1200, 1280x768, 1024x768, 800x600, 640x480
The greater the resolution, the lower the performance.
Change the object mesh complexity used in the simulation (*)

The greater the quality, the lower the performance.


Change the texture complexity used in the simulation (*)

The greater the quality, the lower the performance.

Turn asteroids On / Off.
Turning on asteroids will diminish performance.
Turn nebulae On / Off.
On/Off, nebulae Nº
The greater the nebulae number, the lower the performance.
Turn background galaxies On / Off.
Turning on background galaxies will diminish performance.
Turn galaxies On / Off.
Turning on galaxies will diminish performance.
Turn star clusters On / Off.
On/Off, cluster Nº
The greater the cluster number, the lower the performance.
Turn music On / Off.
Turning on music may diminish performance.
Sets amount of ambient light (minimum is default).
Minimum-Maximum range
Does not affect performance. It is recommended to use minimum ambiental light for greater realism.
Activate or deactivate the lens flares caused at the camera by the light from the stars.
Turning on lens flares will diminish performance.
Activate or deactivate the lights that can be seen at the unlit side of the planets.
Turning on night lights may diminish performance.
Limits the speed of the simulation if your computer exceeds the needed performance (default is maximum).
Minimum-Maximum range
It is recommended to use the maximum speed unless it is determined that the simulation is responding too fast .
Turn solar particle emissions On / Off.
Turning on solar particles will diminish performance.
Turn additional shadows for planets and moons On / Off.

Turning on shadows will diminish performance.

It is recommended to turn them on, unless it is determined that there are visualization problems or incorrect effect execution.

Turn solar atmosphere On / Off
Medium and maximum options diminish performance equally. Difference is visual.
Turn solar filter On / Off

Does not affect performance. Turning solar filter off can be more realistic, while turning it on may allow greater eye relief.

Activate or deactivate the most complex DirectX effects in the simulation, such as star plasma, diffuse nebulae, and globular clusters and galaxies glow.

Turning on DX effects may diminish performance.

It is recommended to turn them on, unless it is determined that there are visualization problems or incorrect effect execution.

Turns on or off the large-sized TV fonts, thought facilitate reading on big screen projections.
Does not affect performance. It is recommended to deactivate them for monitor use (default), and to activate them for TV use.
Select simulation language.
Does not affect performance.

(*) The 'Resolution', 'Object quality' and 'Texture quality' options can only be changed BEFORE the simulation starts. If you want to change these values, close the simulation and make any changes at the configuration screen before pressing the 'Start' button.

Note that on certain video cards some special effects cannot be turned off once they are activated. If you desire to ensure these type of changes, please restart the application.

When the desired changes have been made, press 'Accept' to save them, or 'Cancel' to discard them.


Additional note about TV or monitor calibration:

It may happen that you need to adjust your monitor's brightness for an optimum visualization. You can check this with the following image:

If you can see the halo surrounding the galaxy, while keeping the external side black, the calibration of your monitor is correct and it will allow you to appreciate all of the details in the simulation, as well as the dimmest stars.




There are different ways to travel across the simulation. In the following sections, each one of them is described.


When the simulation starts, we are inside our Solar System. Planets can be visited, as well as any other represented celestial body.

Our Solar System is a set of celestial bodies that orbit the Sun. In the simulation, these celestial bodies are the planets, some of their moons, Comet Halley, and the asteroid belt (only if activated; to activate the asteroid belt, go to the "Configuration" menu).

There are many systems represented in the simulation. They can be stars with extrasolar planets or multiple or binary stars, known as star systems.


Leaving the Solar System

To leave the Solar System, the camera must get far away enough from the Sun. Once outside the Solar System, neither the planets cannot be seen, nor their names, their data, and their respective orbits. Also, the "Planet shortcuts" will not be available.

There are different ways to leave the Solar System:


Entering the Solar System

To enter the Solar System, just get close enough to the Sun.

The planets will be shown again, their names, their data, and their orbits (only if activated using the 'N' and 'O' keys, respectively. See "Data controls").


Visiting extrasolar systems

Within an extrasolar system it is possible to visit their components, whether those components are planets or other stars.

To enter or leave an extrasolar system, follow the same procedures from the previous section. That is, select the main star from the system and travel to it. See"Entering the Solar System" and"Leaving the Solar System". To select a star see "Selecting objects".

An extrasolar system has been entered when the camera is close enough to discern its celestial bodies, their orbits or their names, and data.

The needed distance to enter or leave an extrasolar system depends on the distance between its components. For most systems with planets, this distance is about 1,000 astronomic units or A.U. (1,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun), although for multiple and binary star systems the distance can be much greater.



From orbital camera mode, the camera can be moved forward or backward sequentially by the celestial bodies in the simulation with the 'left and right mouse buttons', respectively. This is described in the "Orbital camera" section.

The precise order of sequential navigation is defined as follows:

Inside a system, all existing celestial bodies are observed. So when advancing sequentially, all planets, moons, or companion stars within the current system are visited.

When the last celestial body of the system is reached, clicking on the left mouse button will lead us to the next system, star, or object, that falls into the current object selection. The initial selection when starting the program includes all celestial objects (to know how to select objects, see the "Selecting objects" section).

If you are not inside a system (whether it is the Solar System or any other extrasolar system), the camera travels directly to the next star or celestial body. That is, if the camera is too far away to distinguish the planets or components of a system, sequential navigation will take us directly to the next star or celestial body. To know how to enter or leave the systems, see "Entering and leaving systems".


When orbiting the last object in the Solar System through sequential navigation, which is Comet Halley (or the asteroid belt, if it is activated), the next left mouse button click will take us to the first star of the constellation Andromeda, Alpha Andromedae.

Consecutive clicks will allow you to visit all of the stars in the constellation Andromeda, ordered by their Bayer/Flamsteed designation, until you reach the next constellation.

If you want to move back (advance in reverse order), click the 'right mouse button'.

When the last star of the last constellation is reached, the camera travels to the next object type. The order of the object types is as follows:


After the last galaxy (the Milky Way), the camera returns to the first star, our Sun. If some object type is not activated, the camera jumps to the next type. If you want to jump directly to the next object type, press the 'Left Control' key (next object type).


Automatic sequential advance

For an automatic sequential advance, press the 'W' key. Sequential navigation will endlessly advance within the current selection, stopping for 20 seconds at each celestial body. When automatic advance is used, the camera, data, time, and special controls are still available. However, some requests, like switching to free camera mode, will cancel automatic advance. To deactivate automatic advance, press 'W' again.

The time speed factor is automatically increased by a factor of 3 when activating automatic sequential advance. If you want another time speed, press the '+' (plus) or '-' (minus) keys.



If you want to orbit any other body other than the current one, there are different ways to select them:



In free camera mode ('wheel mouse button' or 'F' key) you can show the mouse cursor to select a visible object (1).

To show the mouse cursor, press the 'right mouse button' (2) in free camera mode. Then, place the 'mouse cursor' over the center of the object that you want to orbit (3). Its name will appear in red. Press the 'left mouse button' to select it (4):

If you want to cancel and hide the mouse cursor, simply press the right mouse button, or press the left mouse button at an empty place.

Sometimes, different names can appear together at the same location. If this happens, you can use the camera magnification or zoom by rolling the mouse wheel (magnification must be done before showing the mouse cursor) until the names are separated. The magnification will gradually return to the normal value due to automatic zoom. If you want to turn off automatic zoom, press the 'Z' key.

The asteroids, background galaxies, galaxy volume stars, and the single stars from star clusters cannot be selected individually. To select large objects like galaxies, clusters, or nebulae, place the mouse cursor at the center of the object.



The object selector is a tool to differentiate which objects will be visited with sequential navigation.

Stars, nebulae, clusters, and galaxies can be selected by name or code, or by establishing certain conditions.

To set the selection conditions, proceed to the main menu using the 'space bar' and click the first option, 'Object selectors'. This screen will appear:

Next, choose which type of object are you going to filter: star, nebula, cluster, or galaxy.


The star selector

When clicking at the 'Star selector' this screen is shown:


If you want to search for a particular star, insert its name or its Henry Draper code in the "Search name" field and click the search button. With this method, a single star is selected, and the other options are not available to set the filter.

On the other side, if you want to select a group of stars based on the existing options, uncheck the "All" box in the name field. All other options will be then accessible to filter the selected stars.

To filter the stars using the options, turn off the values that you do NOT want to select (as initially "All" are selected).

For example, if you want to select spectral type "B" stars, you should deactivate the buttons for the star types O, A, F, G, K, M, and "Others". At the same time, more criteria can be applied such as specifying the variability of a star, or the number of planets.

Stars that fulfill ALL the filter conditions will be selected.


When clicking the bottom-right arrow button, the second condition selections screen is shown:

Stars can be filtered by constellation; the search field works in the same way as the previous screen. If you select a constellation, only stars that belong to that constellation will be selected.

Also, you can filter by distance from the Sun, size, variable factor, variable period, constellation alpha (usually the brightest star of each constellation), and binary star type.

When getting back to the simulation, a message will appear reporting the number of stars that fulfill the selection. Take into account that certain combinations can result in no star fulfilling the selected conditions.


Activating or deactivating the selection

The selection conditions can be activated or deactivated at any moment by pressing the 'M' key.

Once the selection is activated, sequential navigation, whether it is automatic or manual, will take us only to the set of stars or selected objects. Take into account that if you are inside a system with planets or binary companions, sequential navigation will go through all of these celestial bodies before travelling to the next star.

At any time, the initial advance order can be recovered by pressing the 'M' key again. Sequential navigation will revert back to the default advance order (Bayer/Flamsteed/Constellation) and will travel through all of the existing stars and existing object types.

Also, the selection conditions can be changed at anytime, select a visible object, etc.


Nebulae, clusters and galaxies selectors

The other selectors function in the same way as the star selectors. Obviously, these celestial bodies must be activated in order to travel to the selection set. To activate them, go to the "Configuration" menu.

To get access to the different selectors, open the "Object selectors" screen.

When there is any active filter set, that is to say that advance by selected objects is turned on ('M' key), sequential navigation will not advance to the next type of object (star, singularity, nebula, cluster or galaxy) unless the 'Left Control' key is pressed (next type of object). A different type of object can also be selected by selecting a visible object in free camera mode.



At any time you can decide to enter free camera mode ('wheel mouse button' or 'F' key). In free camera mode, the mouse movements orientate the camera. To move around, the 'arrow keys' are used. The camera can also be displaced upwards or downwards with the 'I' and 'K' keys, respectively.

With the free camera it can be travelled to other stars and, in fact, to anywhere. Space distances are of a great magnitude, that is the reason why the free camera accelerates its travelling speed. The longer you keep pressed the displacement keys, the faster the camera will travel.

If you want to travel even faster, hold down the 'Shift' key, while pressing the displacement keys. The longer you keep pressed shift key, the faster the camera will travel. This is specially useful when observing large objects, or to travel long distances.

To slow down the camera, or to make smooth camera movements, hold down the 'Right Control' key. This is specially useful when visiting small bodies or when high magnification is being used.

If you want to get back to orbital camera mode, press the 'wheel mouse button' or the 'Enter' key at any moment. You will be taken back to the last orbited body. At anytime, a visible object can be selected to orbit as well, see "Selecting a visible object".



By pressing the 'R' key, random navigation becomes activated. In this navigation mode you will be taken to any location within the simulation in a random scheme. Each celestial body that is reached will be orbited for 20 seconds before passing to the next object. To turn off random navigation, press 'R' again. Random navigation also becomes deactivated if switching to free camera mode ('wheel mouse button' or 'F' key).

During random navigation, the controls for camera, data, time, and special functions are still available. This way, important aspects of the simulation are still controlled, such as the orbiting distance or the data output. However, any current selection, activated or deactivated, will be ignored by random navigation.

The time speed factor is automatically increased by a factor of 3 when activating the random navigation. If you want another time speed, press the '+' (plus) or '-' (minus) keys.

Maybe you want to discover new locations or stars, or perhaps you want to take a break from the simulation handling or you simply do not know where to go. In all these cases, random navigation will provide a way to relax and contemplate the simulation without any more action needed by the user.



If you are lost or disoriented, or you simply want to return to the Solar System, press the 'F1' key to orbit the Sun. Enter the Solar System by getting close enough to see the orbits or the planet names, and press 'F4' to select the Earth.



A very small percentage of individuals may experience epileptic seizures or blackouts when exposed to certain light patterns or flashing lights. Exposure to certain patterns or backgrounds on a screen or when playing video games may trigger epileptic seizures or blackouts in these individuals. These conditions may trigger previously undetected epileptic symptoms or seizures in persons who have no history of prior seizures or epilepsy. If you, or anyone in your family, has an epileptic condition or has had seizures of any kind, consult your physician before playing.

Immediately discontinue use and consult your physician before resuming gameplay if you or your child experience any of the following health problems or symptoms: Dizziness, altered vision, eye or muscle twitches, loss of awareness, disorientation, seizures, or any involuntary movement or convulsion. Resume gameplay only on approval of your physician.

How to use and handle videogames

Use in a well-lit area and keep the screen a safe distance from your face.

Avoid prolonged use. Take a 15-minute break during each hour of play.

Avoid playing when you are tired or need sleep.


APPENDIX I: Description of scientific codes

When showing scientific data, one or more of these codes may appear in the star type description:

* Star
** Double Star
*in** Star in double system
*inAssoc Star in Association
*inCl Star in Cluster
*inNeb Star in Nebula
Be* Be Star
BYDra Variable of BY Dra type
C* Carbon Star
CataclyV* Variable Star of cataclysmic type
Cepheid Cepheid variable Star
deltaCep Classical Cepheid (delta Cep type)
EB* Eclipsing binary Star
EB*Algol Eclipsing binary Star of Algol type
EB*betLyr Eclipsing binary Star of betLyr type
EB*WUMa Eclipsing binary Star of WUMa type
Em* Emission-line Star
Erupt*RCrB Variable Star of R CrB type
Eruptive* Eruptive variable Star
Flare* Flare Star
gammaDor Variable Star of gamma Dor type
HII Star in region of ionized hydrogen
HMXB High-mass X-ray binary
IR Star with envelope of IR type
Irregular_V* Variable Star of irregular type
Mira Variable Star of Mira Cet type
Nova Nova-like variables
Orion_V* Variable Star of Orion type
Pec* Peculiar Star
PM* Pre-main sequence Star (optically detected)
pMS* Pre-main sequence Star (optically detected)
post-AGB* Post-AGB Star
PulsV* Pulsating variable Star
PulsV*bCep Variable Star of beta Cep type
PulsV*delSct Variable Star of delta Sct type
PulsV*RVTau Variable Star of RV Tau type
PulsV*semi-reg Semi-regular pulsating Star
PulsV*WVir Variable Star of W Vir type
Rapid_Irreg_V* Variable Star with rapid variations
RotV* Rotationally variable Star
RotV*alf2CVn Variable Star of alpha2 CVn type
RotV*Ell Ellipsoidal variable Star
RRLyr Variable Star of RR Lyr type
RSCVn Variable of RS CVn type
S* S Star
SB Spectroscopic binary
Symbiotic* Symbiotic Star
TTau* T Tau type Star
V* Variable Star
V*? Star suspected of Variability
WD* White Dwarf
WR* Wolf-Rayet Star


Note that the spectral class will be fully shown when scientific data is activated, however their different values are too varied, falling beyond the scope and purpose of this manual.


APPENDIX II: Minimum recommended system requirements

Although MPL3D Solar System has many configuration options, we recommend your video card has at least 128 Mb of memory to get the most from it.

Certain features of the MPL3D Solar System require a suitably powerful graphics card compatible with Pixel/Vertex shader 2.0 or later.

Please visit for more details.


APPENDIX III: MPL3D Solar System v1.2 -  Menu Options & Features

MPL3D Solar System v1.2 - Menu Options & Features

  New for V1.2
  Improved for V1.2
MENU ID/LEVEL 1 2 3 4 New Improved Description Requester
1 Simulation              
2   Objects            
3     Asteroids          
4     Nebulae          
5     Star Clusters          
6     Galaxies          
7     Far Galaxies          
8   Show/Hide Menu                Spacekey            
9   Configuration Menu...            
10   Classic Menu...            
11   Quit                                    Esc            
12 Navigation              
13   Next Object                        LMB            
14   Previous Object                  RMB            
15   Next Type of Object           Left Control            
16   Auto Orbit                           A            
17   Auto Advance                     W            
18   Random Travel                    R            
19   Auto-Approach to Planets and Moons     *   If checked, the camera will automatically approach small bodies when travelling or after selection. Set to On by default. MPL3D
20   Orbit Sun                             F1            
21 Object Selection              
22   Select Object with Mouse        RMB            
23   Mark Selected Objects             M            
24   Auto-Travel to 1st Marked Object     *   If checked, after an object selection, or when marking a previous made selection, the simulation will travel automatically to the 1st object that matches the criteria. Set to On by default. MPL3D
25   Local Selector...            
26   Star Selector...            
27   Nebula Selector...            
28   Cluster Selector...            
29   Galaxy Selector...            
30 Data              
31   Names                                   N            
32   Names and Data            
33   Scientific Data                     D            
34   Orbits                                    O            
35   Constellations                      C            
36   Constellation Boundaries            
37   Ra / Dec Coordinates            
38   Celestial Coordinates Grid            
39 Time              
40   Show Time/Date                                 TAB            
41   Enter Date...                                      E            
42   Normal Speed                                     0            
43   Current Date/Normal Speed           *            
44   Increase Time Speed                         +            
45   Increase Time Speed Small                 CRTL && +            
46   Decrease Time Speed                         -            
47   Decrease Time Speed Small                CRTL && -            
48   Select Time Speed            
49   Freeze Time     *   Freezes the simulation time. MPL3D
50 Camera              
51   Control Camera with Mouse          CMB            
52   Free Camera                                  F            
53   Orbital Camera                              Enter            
54   Distance Shortcuts            
55     Closer Large            Page Up          
56     Closer Medium         Home          
57     Closer Small             Insert          
58     Further Small           Delete          
59     Further Medium       End          
60     Further Large          Page Down          
61   Set Speed            
62     Fast              Right Shift     * Locks camera speed to fast speed. Camera speed algorithm improved, see features section. MPL3D
63     Normal     * Locks camera speed to normal speed. Camera speed algorithm improved, see features section. MPL3D
64     Slow              Right Control     * Locks camera speed to slow speed. Camera speed algorithm improved, see features section. MPL3D
65   Move            
66     Front         Up Arrow          
67     Back          Down Arrow          
68     Right         Right Arrow          
69     Left           Left Arrow          
70     Up             I / U          
71     Down         K / J          
72   Orientate            
73     Up           U          
74     Down       J          
75     Right        .          
76     Left          ;          
77   Automatic FOV                               Z            
78   Set Camera FOV…     *   Dialog to set camera Field Of View. m22587a
79 View options              
80   Solar Filter                                  
81   Solar Particles       * Solar particles improved, see features section. MPL3D / Public
82     Complex Particle Object   *   If checked, the solar particles will use a more complex mesh. Tail of the particles is scaled and pointed depending on particle speed and direction of movement. MPL3D
83     Additional Particles For Companion Stars   *   If checked, the eruptive particles and particle explosions will be shown for the stars that are binary components. MPL3D
84     Gravitatory Particles    *   Particles can be attracted by the gravity of the stars. See features section. MPL3D
85       Companion Stars Gravity *   Turns On gravity caused by stars other than the star that emmits the particles. MPL3D
86       Emitter Gravity *   Turns On gravity caused by the same star that emmits the particles. MPL3D
87       Off *   Turns Off Gravitatory Particles. MPL3D
88     Set Particle Amount...   *   Dialog to set particle amount. Minimum 50, maximum 250, default 100. MPL3D
89     Off          
90   Solar Atmosphere            
91     Max     * Improved solar atmosphere, see features section. MPL3D
92     Med          
93     Min          
94   Surface Oscillation of Stars     * * New option to turn the effect On or Off. See features section for improvements. MPL3D / m22587a
95   Flare Effects     * Improved flare effects, see features section. Dark Coder / MPL3D / m22587a 
96     Stars and Planets   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the flares around the solid bodies. m22587a
97     Complex Flares   *   If checked, the flares will be compounded by additional objects. This option cannot be turned On if the 'Stars and Planets' is set to Off or if 'Solar Filter' is set to On. m22587a
98     Lens Flare   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the circular camera flares caused by stars. m22587a
99     Brightness Compensation   *   The brightness compensation algorithm is a part of the new logarithmic brightness system, see features section. This option can be set On/Off independently. Default value is On. m22587a
100     Off          
101   Night Lights            
102   Shadows         Improved shadows, see features section. Dark Coder / MPL3D / m22587a 
103     Detailed   *   Shadows will have as many stages as set in 'Set Shadows Detail..' option. MPL3D
104     Simple   *   Shadows will be conformed by one single stage. MPL3D
105     Set Shadows Detail…   *   Option to set the amount of stages for the shadows. Maximum is 10 stages. More than 4 stages only recommended for high-end computers. MPL3D
106     Off          
107   Nebula Fog Effect     * * Option to turn On/Off the additional objects that form the nebula fog, see features section. MPL3D
108   TV Fonts            
109   Turn Off System Messages     *   If checked, the system messages like 'Travelling' will not appear. Neftimiades
110   Set Data Color...            
111   Set Ambient Light...            
112   Dx Effects            
113     Max          
114     Med          
115     Min          
116     Atmospheric shader   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the atmospheric shader for planets with atmospheres. MPL3D
117     Relief shader   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the relief shader for planets with solid surface. MPL3D
118     Planetary Ring Shader   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the ring shader for planets with rings, protoplanetary disks and black holes. MPL3D
119     Real Star Colors   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the true color shader for stars. See feture'Star surface shader'. MPL3D / m22587a
120   Level of Detail       * Level of detail system dynamically changes the quality of objects and textures based on their angular size, see features section. MPL3D
121     Max   *   Fixed maximum detail for planetary objects and textures. HIGH general quality mode and maximum LOD mode is recommended only for computers with a huge amount of video memory (>= 1Gb). This mode makes the planetary navigation seamless. MPL3D
122     Dynamic   *   Dynamic detail for planetary objects and textures.Maximum detail will be shown only when needed. It allows to see maximum detail in computers with an average amount of video memory (512Mb). This can cause a small time lags during the shifting quality process. MPL3D
123     Min   *   Fixed minimum detail for planetary objects and textures. For computers with a limited video memory  (<=128Mb). This mode makes the planetary navigation seamless. MPL3D
124 Special              
125   System Gallery                   G            
126   Orbit Size                            S            
127     Real          
128     Reduced          
129     Smallest          
130   Show Statistics                    ~            
131   Take Picture                        P            
132   Sound       * Improved sound system, see features section. Brunelesky
133     Music   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the music soundtracks. Brunelesky
134     3d Star Sound   *   Option to turn On/Off  the 3d positional sound for the stars, see features section. Brunelesky
135     Confirmation Sound   *   Option to turn On/Off independently the beep confirmation sound. Brunelesky
136     Next Song   *   If 'Music' option is checked, when clicked it advances to the next song. Brunelesky
137     Set Volume...   *   Dialog to set music and sound general volume. Brunelesky
138     Off          
139   Language            
140     English          
141     Spanish          
142 Help              
143   Controls…            
144   User Manual…            
145   User Tips            
146   Go to Web Page…            
147   Check for Updates            
148   Credits…            
MPL3D SOLAR SYSTEM - V1.2 Features Status
  Ready to go live Condition: Released
  Can go live as it is
  Not ready
Base Features Name Status Status Status Estimated time remaining Description / Status Requester
1 Logarithmic brightness system      100%   New logarithmic brightness system for the stars and the starfield. It is based on the real apparent magnitude of the stars, that fits the logarithmic perception of the human eye, giving a more natural sensation to the star rendering. m22587a
2 New star flare system     100%   Improved starfield, that applies the logarithmic brightness system and is affected by the 'solar filter' option, as well as new textures for star flares and atmospheres, to be applied accordingly. Dark Coder / MPL3D / m22587a 
3 New particle System     100%   New 3d particle system for stars, including new appearance, new behaviour and more flexibility. This development has been forced due to the exponential camera zoom feature. MPL3D / Public
4 Camera speed algorithm     100%   New camera speed algorithm. The camera speed is now directly proportional to the distance to the surface of the closest body. In this way, the closer the camera gets to the surface, the slower it goes, allowing a much better control. MPL3D
5 Camera collision system for the solid bodies     100%   This prevents the camera from entering the planets interior (as well as stars, etc.) For example, the orbiting bodies will 'push' the camera if the camera lies in its orbital path. MPL3D
6 Exponential camera zoom      100%   Exponential camera zoom for planets and moons. Right now, it allows to get 10,000 times closer to these bodies, enhancing the experience of large magnitudes in sizes and distances. MPL3D
7 Planetary shaders     100%   Atmosphere shader, for planets with atmosphere,  normal map shader for rocky bodies when available, and planetary ring shader for planets with ring system. Shaders integrated, configured and tested. Dark Coder / m22587a / Public
8 Shadow shader     100%   Current stencil shadows have been improved to allow soft shadows, and they will make the job for V1.2. Shadow shader implementation itself has been postponed for next version, due to technical reasons. MPL3D / Dark Coder / Public
9 Better textures for the main planets     100%   Textures integrated and applied, pending packaging. V1.2 includes textures up to 4k when available. For the future: to develop an automatic download system with  two final package versions, the LITE one, with automatic downloading system for extra textures, and the FULL version, that would include all textures. GalaxyExplorer / Public
12 Visual magnitude revised for variable stars     100%   Corrected magnitude (based on General Catalogue of Variable Stars) for stars like Betelgeuse. m22587a
13 Visual magnitude calculation and output     100%   Apparent magnitude from the point of view is calculated and can be read when 'Scientific data' is ON ("d" key). m22587a/MPL3D
14 Star surface shader     100%   This set of effects allow to display custom rgb colours for stars and star surface. This results into 380 different real star colours, based on spectral class. It also adds a fresnel effect to the surface of the stars. m22587a/MPL3D
Secondary features Name Status Status Status Estimated time remaining Description / Status Requester
15 Brightness compensation     100%   The brightness compensation algorithm is a part of the new logarithmic brightness system. It causes a 'blind' effect based on the visual magnitude of the brightest body in the screen, and its distance to the center of the screen. It will fade out the brightness of all the dimmer bodies that are in the screen. This option can be set On/Off independently. Default value is On. m22587a
16 Gravitatory system     100%   Additonally to the new particle system, a gravitational trajectory system has been developed for the particles. Particles are pulled by the gravity of the stars. This force of attraction depends on the mass of the attracting star and the distance to its surface. MPL3D
17 Surface oscillation algorithm     100%   Improved algorithm that causes an smoother movement of the surface. New movement is based of star size, and affects amplitude and speed of the oscillation. The bigger the star, the more the amplitude and the lower the speed (frequency).  All stars result in different oscillations, and big stars like Betelgeuse now wobble. MPL3D / m22587a
18 Nebula effect retouch     100%    Improved transition for entering the nebulas. Overall improved nebula effect. MPL3D
19 Solar atmosphere retouch     100%   Improved solar atmosphere effect for close distances and star close-up. Only viewable when option is set to Max. MPL3D
20 Sagittarius A* black hole improvements.     100%   Orbit the rogue star that is swallowed by the Sagittarius A* black hole.  MPL3D
21 3d sounds     100%   3d positional sound for the stars. The vibrations of the surface of a star, can be traduced into sounds, that are here applied as a tremble effect. Based on star size, the bigger the star, the lower the speed of the sound (~frequency), this makes almost every star to have its own sound. Brunelesky
22 Additional dialogs and options     100%   Various dialogs to set simulation values. Additional options and dialogs will be added as needed. MPL3D
23 Angular size in pixels     100%   Use angular size algorithm to improve performance, while lowering object pop-ups. MPL3D
24 Dynamic Level of Detal System (LOD)     100%   New level of detail (LOD) system based on angular size. The LOD system always base its detail in the general quality mode for objects and textures, HIGH/MED/LOW, that are to be set before launching the simulation. See the 'Configuration' menu. MPL3D
Other Tasks Name Status Status Status Estimated time remaining Description / Status Requester
25 Apply changes to production     100%   Copy clean code to production environment. MPL3D
26 Re-packaging     100%   Package new media. MPL3D
27 Integration testings     100%   Test release version. MPL3D


Manuel Perez de Lema Lopez
Matthew Alvarez
  Astronomy consultant
Carlos Wilkes
  Graphics specialist
Jim Burridge
  Graphics specialist
Bruno Gallego Martin
  Sound engineer
Maite Cambronero Hellin
  Quality management

External Collaborators

Bertone Ermes
Ian Mold
Jason Clogg

Media contributors

Real images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
Enhanced real images courtesy of James Hastings-Trew and Bjorn Jonsson
Data contributors
Centre de Donnees astronomiques de Strasbourg
CDS service for astronomic catalogues
IAU / IAG Working Group
SIMBAD Astronomical Database
Know-how contributors

Sixty Squares

Mark Blosser
Mista Wilson
Ed Filby
Brian Macintosh
Paul Schlyter
Keith Burnett
Mikkel Fredborg
Dan 'Scilynt' H.
Dave 'Sephnroth' Burford
Matthew 'Ninja Matt' Lawrence
Special acknowledgements
John Whatmough
Jean Schneider
Andrei Tokovinin
JPL Solar System Dynamics Group
Richard Powell
Nick Strobel
Roger Dymock
Visit for software and documentation updates.
© 2005-2016 Manuel Perez de Lema Lopez
All rights reserved