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Elite: Dangerous ‘predicted’ the discovery of the Trappist-1 system

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Sort of. Developers found something very similar after NASA’s announcement.

Artist’s conception of the Trappist-1 system
NASA

This week, astronomers announced the discovery of the Trappist 1 system, 39.5 light years away, which contains seven rocky worlds orbiting their star within a zone believed to support liquid water, therefore good candidates for life. It turns out that a while ago, the wide-open spacefaring adventure Elite: Dangerous, through its algorithm, created a system that closely matches the real one, and not only that, put it in the same location relative to our Solar System.

Frontier Developments made this discovery itself when it went looking to recreate the Trappist-1 system in the game, as it's done in the past for other discoveries (notably the exploration of Pluto and its satellite in 2015). David Braben, the game's director, explained the game's Stellar Forge engine and how it generates stellar systems, and that it cooked up a brown dwarf star "in very nearly the same place — 39 light years away" that also has seven terrestrial worlds around it.

Stellar Forge uses an available-mass formula to create its worlds and systems, meaning it doesn't just cook up planets and stars out of nowhere. Who's to say if this is a pure coincidence or if Elite: Dangerous' planetary-generation logic is actually on to something. But Braben sure seemed delighted in a note to the community about it.

As it turns out, all Frontier Developments will need to do is to make some tweaks to the existing system, currently called Core Sys Sector XU-P A5-0. It will be renamed Trappist-1. The system will be added in Elite Dangerous' next beta, and the 2.3 update when that goes live to all players.