Authors: Alexander T. Long, Vladimir, Dr. Megan, and Brendan

Letter from the CEO

Five years ago today, SpaceEngine — the monumental achievement of Vladimir Romanyuk — was released on Steam.

To start, I want to acknowledge how truly impressive it is for a solo developer to come so far.

I didn't know Vladimir through most of this early development, as SpaceEngine was already on Steam and had existed outside of that long before Cosmographic was founded. However, I remember being shocked when I learned it was created and developed almost entirely by one person alone. Thinking of the skill, knowledge, and perseverance that was poured into his creation, over thousands of hours, is something that always moves me — as I know it does every member of the team. Every day, I reflect on what an honor and privilege it is to be trusted by him to build and lead this company, and to help him continue what he started many years ago.

Where we are now is somewhere I don't think any member of the team expected to be. We've grown steadily and sustainably over the last two years, and now have 13 people involved in furthering Vladimir's vision. I know that everyone at Cosmographic is focused on making sure we "do right by Vladimir,” as one of our developers put it. To that end, we all give our best each day, because this project and its original creator deserve nothing less.

It is perhaps fitting that today we're also releasing a new update to the beta branch, which will be available around the time this post goes live. We have included a special gift that I know a lot of our community members have been requesting: a high-resolution screenshot tool!

I'd also like to acknowledge our community; without you, we wouldn't be able to keep this vision alive. I believe SpaceEngine is something genuinely unique, and I like to think that everyone who has used it at some point is moved by seeing the Universe through its lens.

As always, you’ll find more information about the next update below!

High-Resolution Screenshot Tool

Have you ever wanted to take a really big picture of your favourite location in SpaceEngine, but your screen just isn’t large enough? Or maybe your graphics card just doesn’t have enough video RAM?

Well, you’re in luck! Today, we would like to present to you: the high-resolution screenshot tool. This new tool empowers you to take immense pictures, but without overloading your computer.

How does that work?

The high-resolution screenshot tool works on a very simple principle. It breaks the scene down into small pieces, takes screenshots of each piece, and then assemble the pieces into a large mosaic image.

Where can I try it out?

The high-resolution screenshot tool is presently only available on the SpaceEngine Beta branch on Steam. To sign up to the beta please follow the instructions in Opt In to Beta.

How do I use the tool?

You can find the high-resolution screenshot tool:

1. By clicking the camera icon on the left-hand side of the planetarium screen.

2. By clicking Tools in the main menu.

3. By pressing Shift+F11 on your keyboard.


The high-resolution screenshot tool will appear as a modal box:


The tool has several options available for you to configure:

  • Target resolution: The size of the screenshot you are taking.
  • Image format: What image format to save the screenshot in.
  • Tile resolution: The size of the tiles (or pieces) a screenshot is broken up into for processing. The smaller the tiles, the easier it is to process.
  • Landscape LOD: The level-of-detail that landscape will have in the screenshot. The higher the LOD, the harder it is on your computer, but the nicer the screenshot looks.
  • [PRO Feature] Save transparency: For image formats that support it, save a transparent background with the screenshot. This is a feature that is only available in SpaceEngine PRO.
  • Set graphics to maximum: Use the highest-quality graphics when taking your screenshot.
  • Scale stars: Scale stars based on the size of your screenshot.
  • Minimize window: Minimize the SpaceEngine window when your screenshot is done rendering.
  • Exit to desktop: Quit SpaceEngine when your screenshot is done rendering.

Before you take your screenshot, you can review your settings at the bottom of the window. To start taking your screenshot, press the camera button. If you want to stop taking a screenshot, press the square (stop) button. To see the screenshots you have already taken, press the folder button.


Tool Limitations & Usage Tips
  • The maximum resolution of the screenshot tool is limited by the image format chosen. Most image formats support no more than 65535x65535 and/or a 4 GiB memory footprint.
    • To calculate the memory footprint of an image, multiply width by height and by either 3 or 4 for RGB and RGBA pixel format respectively.
  •  The screen-space rendering effects, including bloom, glare, diffraction spikes and lens flares, are rendered at the current window resolution. This means that in a very large screenshot they will look blurry. Although they are blurry by their nature anyway.
    •  If you notice a very large "corona" around bright stars when you zoom into a saved screenshot, try to reduce bloom brightness. This can be found in Settings -> Visual style.
    • The FXAA anti-aliasing is also a screen-space effect, but it works on a per-tile basis perfectly. However, it does not have access to pixels in the adjacent tiles, so you may notice seams between tiles. It is therefore recommended to use MSAA instead.
  • The gravity lensing effects found around black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, wormholes, and warp drives are not really compatible with the tile rendering. The gravity lensing effect works by distorting the background image and rendering it back to the frame using ray-tracing, from the camera position towards infinity. As such, some rays may go outside of the edges of the frame or of the tile boundaries. For these rays, the engine doesn't have data to sample, so it takes pixels from the special environment map, which is generated in advance. The environment map is a cubic texture surrounding the camera. But this map has a limited resolution, which can be configured by the environment maps resolution slider in Settings -> Graphics. While the resolution of this setting may be enough for normal rendering, with the high-resolution screenshot tool the maximum setting of 4k is far too little for a high-quality screenshot. Areas on the screenshot where the environment map was sampled will look very blurry compared to the rest of the scene. As such, since the high-resolution screenshot rendering occurs in independent tiles, every tile will have patches of low-resolution areas in it.
    • The accretion disk and jets are not affected by this limitation and are rendered in full resolution. So scenes more focused on depicting the accretion disk may look good, since strongly warped areas near the event horizon will be masked by the accretion disk or may be too small to notice.
    • Where the gravity lens fits into a single tile, the issue should not occur. You may adjust the camera position to achieve this.
    • If you take screenshots of black holes with auto or manual exposure mode, the background stars/galaxy will not be visible at all.
  • You may experience issues while taking landscape screenshots at high LOD. The engine has a special buffer in the GPU video memory used to store generated terrain textures and geometry, called the texture cache. Its size is 2048 slots or around 3 GiB at most. Even if you have a decent GPU with enough video memory (6+ GiB), the engine can't fully load/generate terrain at LOD 1, and in some circumstances even at LOD 0.5. This is also true for the tile rendering. If the high-resolution screenshot tool detects purging of the texture cache multiple times per tile, it shows a popup message suggesting that you reduce terrain LOD or tile size. You can reduce LOD on-the-fly. This will allow you to find the working LOD, experimentally.
    • Try to disable clouds, water, and night/thermal glow, as these all consume slots in the texture cache.
    • Reducing the tile resolution to 512 may also help, because less terrain patches will be visible in the tile, so less slots will be needed from the texture cache. You can see how terrain is splitting into patches while the engine preloads the tile before saving it to the disk. The patches will look like a wireframe mesh.
  • You don't need to push all graphics settings to the limits (like aurora quality, rings resolution, resolution of volumetrics, etc.) to achieve a good screenshot. Those are performance/quality tradeoff optimizations, and they all can be simply disabled by selecting the set graphics to maximum option.
    • This is also true for the Video Capture Tool.


Special Thanks

We would like to give a special thanks to our community member Kewen L. "Phunnie" who helped us create the high-resolution screenshot tool. Thank you very much!

Catalog Updates

Our catalog update this month features new exoplanets and host stars, new binary asteroids in the Solar System, and a variety of fixes and updates for existing catalog entries. Among the new exoplanets are a pair of nearby Earth-sized worlds, SPECULOOS-3 b and Gliese 12 b. And yes, that first planet is named like the beloved Belgian cookie! But in this case, ‘SPECULOOS’ is an acronym standing for “Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars” (astronomers love a good acronym!). Both of these planets closely orbit cool, M-type stars, but their atmospheres (or lack thereof) are expected to be quite different. Not only does SPECULOOS-3 orbit about 9 times closer than Gliese 12 b (at 0.00733 au, vs Gliese 12 b’s 0.067 au), their host stars’ activity levels also have a big impact. SPECULOOS-3 is an active star, while Gliese 12 b is a quiet star, with little activity. This means that SPECULOOS-3 b is being blasted with radiation and as a result, it is expected to have little to no atmosphere. Gliese 12 b, meanwhile, with its calm star, could retain a massive, Venus-like atmosphere, or a thinner, more Earth-like atmosphere. Both planets make promising targets for follow-up studies, and continue to demonstrate the diversity of the universe.

Behold! SPECULOOS-3 b:

Gliese 12 b:

Build 0.990.48.2024 (Public Beta), Changes and Updates from the Previous Version:

  • Added high-resolution screenshot tool
  • Improved integration of Settings and Tools windows with the main menu
  • Updated the exoplanet and host star catalog
  • Updated binary asteroid catalog
  • Improved the appearance of Eris and Sedna (for real this time!)
  • Miscellaneous catalog fixes, including the distance to galaxy and blackhole S5 0836+71
  • Fixed broken Featured Locations and added a few new Featured Locations
  • Added button to the video capture dialog to open the output folder
  • Added missing gamma correction to several tone mapping options
  • Added new tone mapping options: AgX Punchy, Reinhard SE, Rec 709, and sRGB
    •  Rec 709 and sRGB are mainly for reference, they are not designed for HDR content and clip harshly with bright pixel values; manual exposure adjustment recommended for best results
  • Fixed some settings not saving while in the main menu