Today’s post is part of a series of posts profiling sciency video games. These are educational games, most available for free online, that can really help you gain a deeper understanding of science. Click here to find out more about this series.
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The Solar System is fragile. The orbits of all the planets are affected not only by the gravity of the Sun but by the gravity of their fellow planets. Not only that: the combined gravitational pull of all the planets affects the Sun, causing it to wobble in place. Our Solar System is like a big, complicated machine with lots of moving parts, vibrating and shuddering, ready to burst into a million pieces at the slightest disturbance.
So with that in mind, it’s time you tried to make your own solar system. In the game Super Planet Crash, you drop planets into orbit around a star. The larger the planet, the more points you’ll score, assuming you can keep all those celestial spheres from colliding or hurling each other into deep space. If you manage to keep your solar system stable for 500 rotations, you win the game (FYI: I have yet to win the game).
It’s one thing to know intellectually that the Solar System exists in this delicate balance; it’s another to see how easily that balance can be disrupted. That is ultimately the lesson this game is trying to teach. In fact, astronomers have discovered rogue planets out there, drifting through space without a star to orbit. Presumably this happens because of people like me trying to play Super Planet Crash.
Click here to start playing Super Planet Crash.
P.S.: Based on my current high score in Super Planet Crash, we can all be thankful I did not design the real Solar System.