Dance of the Planets
A most singular PC planetarium program. DOS legacy software last updated in 1994. Remarkably, we still sell it. The reason is that even still, it’s the only real time animation of the solar system brought to life on the screen by simulating gravity. It is the most complex working model of the solar system ever created.
Dance of the Planets® is astronomy software that defies easy comparison to any other. It is literally a working model of the solar system with an underlying foundation based on time and gravity. You may view from Earth or space, set a starting time, and then watch celestial events unfold. Dance has long enjoyed a strong following among amateurs, educators, and armchair astronomers. Its most notable distinctions include:
- Orbital simulation providing a time machine to watch and understand celestial events, past and future.
- Ephemeris accuracy to the highest standards for commercial astronomy software.
- Observer’s Companion, a powerful, fully integrated, calculating almanac. Do your own research, find celestial events, past or future, and simulate them on the screen.
Dance of the Planets is serious, number-crunching science software that recreates the dynamic solar system for your exploration. For example, recreate comet Hale-Bopp, scheduled for a spectacular apparition in 1997. Watch it from a solar system perspective, and how it will appear in the sky from your location on Earth. And imagine a phenomenon as esoteric as orbital resonances being self-explanatory when you see it happening on the screen. Such is the magic of Dance.
Should You Even Consider Buying This DOS Program? Yes, with the appropriate expectations. Dance of the Planets uses VGA graphics— good in the mid-1990s but far short of today’s graphics. It is Windows compatible, but doesn’t have a slick Windows interface. However, the astronomical accuracy remains among the best, and the unique orbital simulations are fascinating and enlighting. We would recommend it to be among your astronomy software selections if you are a serious enthusiast of any age, or if you would like to gain real insight into the gravitational dynamics of the solar system. For other possible issues with this DOS-based software, see FAQ and Support.
Dance of the Planets has received over 30 reviews since 1990, including two in Sky & Telescope. However, no matter how glowing, ten year old reviews may be pretty meaningless today. But here are quotes from two that we think are pretty timeless…
“It is the most imaginative and imagination-inspiring software that I have yet seen… It is possible, I believe, to learn more about astronomy in a few short hours with Dance than in years of studying dry textbooks.”
Richard Berry, author and former editor in chief, Astronomy
“This reviewer has encountered no similarly rich entrant in the existing corpus of programs for the personal computer.”
Philip Morrison, Scientific American
Dance won an unusal distinction in 1993 as a runner-up in Discover magazine’s annual Innovation Awards.
The character of the solar system is dynamical— which is the reason Dance of the Planets is such an interesting planetarium model— indeed it’s something of a time machine! When a date is specified, the instantaneous positions and velocities of the orbiting bodies are calculated— then “gravity” takes over. The incremental movement of each body due to the gravitational influence of all others is continuously calculated, closely approximating what happens in the real solar system. You can find all manner of past and future apparitions, make original discoveries of cause and circumstance, see how many subtle processes and phenomena arise simply by watching them unfold on the screen.
Planets and satellites are “built-in”, and the program comes with some 7500 asteroids and comets. But new comets and asteroids can also be simulated by bringing the object’s orbital elements (the necessary mathematical orbital description) into Dance. An exceptionally rare simulation still much exercised by Dance users is the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet fragments that slammed into Jupiter in 1994— they had the best seat in the house. The comet or asteroid discovered last month or next month can be placed in the Dance of the Planets time machine- to be used and enjoyed by active observers or armchair astronomers.
NEW: DOS Emulator works Great with Dance
Thanks to a tip from an enthusiastic Dance user, we can suggest a superior DOS emulator for running legacy DOS programs like Dance. DOSBox can be downloaded for free but the creators welcome a donation!
The link to the site is:
We have tested it here on a laptop that previously could never run Dance, and it appears to work great!
On-Line Users Group
There is now an on-line Dance-of-the-Planets Users Group hosted by Peter van Grijfland where Dance users can discuss issues and interests. The link to the site is:
Dance Object Files
Users of Dance of the Planets can click on the following link to download new/additional orbital elements from the Minor Planet Center which are formatted for Dance. The objects can then be simulated within the program.
In your broswer, save the collection of elements as *.txt and save each of these files into your \DANCE\OBJECTS directory. Once saved, you may at any time edit the collection (delete, add, combine, reorganize objects) with a text editor such as WordPad. Within this directory the file extensions must be changed to *.cmt and *.ast as appropriate. Rename the collections as appropriate, for example Comets.cmt, CritList.ast, Distant.ast, Unusual.ast, Bright97.ast, (i.e. BrightYY.ast).
New Comet Database updated through 2008 free for download
Christopher Low, a long time Dance user in England, has been so kind as to update the comet database in Dance of the Planets. Every comet in the default files has been upgraded to the new designation system (1759 I = 1P; 1759 III = C/1760 A1 etc), and many of them have improved orbital elements. As part of the database there are five new files, and these extend the database up to the end of 2008. The format of the default files is basically identical to the original versions, but the five new ones have all of the numbered short period comets at the top, followed by the long period and unnumbered short period comets that have designations that fit in the relevant time period eg. (20032005.cmt) includes all numbered short period comets that passed through perihelion between 2003 January 1 and 2005 December 31, and all other comets that have 2003, 2004, 2005, etc designations). Restricting the new files to a period of three years solves the potential problem of having two apparitions of 2P/Encke sitting next to each other at the top of the list. There are so many comets discovered these days, that even this limited timespan includes a significant number of objects
Christopher has also attached a small asteroid file (2007.ast) for download as a ZIP file. This includes accurate orbital elements for over 100 of the brightest main belt asteroids (epoch 2007 April 10.0). The elements for the asteroids are from the JPL Small Bodies database. The vast majority of the comet orbital elements are from Kazuo Kinoshita and Syuichi Nakano, but a few are from other sources (1P/Halley and 109P/Swift-Tuttle are courtesy of Donald Yeomans, and the accurate elements for several of the major sungrazers in the 19th and 20th centuries are from work done by Paul Chodas and Zdenek Sekanina). Enjoy!
Download the Dance of the Planets v2.71 demo and see for your self what orbital simulation brings to personal planetarium software. The demonstation version is provided in a self-extracting zipped form. After downloading the executable file, double click on the file name and provide a directory location for the files to be placed. For this you should create a directory named, for example, DanceDemo.
After unzipping the files in the demo directory, you can run the demo by double clicking on the Dandemo.exe file. However, there may be problems with running the DOS demo without some configuring for your Windows environment. Please do the following:
- Right button click on the Dandemo.exe and select Create Shortcut.
- Drag the Shortcut file to your desktop.
- Right click on the Shortcut and select Properties.
- Select the Program tab and Change Icon..
- Browse to the demo directory and select the Dance.ico
- Select the Misc tab and set the Idle Sensitivity to Low (this will only be in effect when running the demo from the Dance icon).
- The other setting in the Properties dialog are probably OK, so click Apply and OK.
- Run the demo by double clicking the Dance icon. Follow the instructions and suggestions that are a part of the demo.
For new customers or for upgrades, the program is now distributed on a CD for installation convenience. This version 2.71 Q.E.D. edition (Query, Explore, and Demonstrate) includes the Observer’s Companion calculating almanac plus other enhancements for orbital simulation of real or hypothetical objects, and for simulation demonstrations in a classroom, etc. Included are several simulation scripts, providing over 100 annotated simulations which are not only interesting and entertaining, but will also get you familiar with operation and the nature of Dance very quickly. Some 380,000 stars are included (up to 10th magnitude), as well as some 1,500 comets, 6000 asteroids, and all the satellites known at the time of the v2.71 release..
The Observer’s Companion is an incredibly powerful calculating almanac that we believe stills outperforms any other for PCs, standalone or integrated. And it is also the only tightly integrated almanac that allows you to easily switch back and forth from the almanac to visual simulations with the press of a key. We have used it to discover the next “grand alignment” of the ages, comparable to the one in 1953 bc (you may live to see it). With the Companion, you can find this and countless other special alignments involving the sun, moon, planets, and stars.
Price (new order or upgrade)
Dance of the Planets® Q.E.D with all stars. . . . . . . . . . . . . .$75.00 plus shipping
e-mail: ARC Science
snail-mail: ARC Science Simulations, PO Box 1955, Loveland, CO 80539 – USA
FAQ and Support
Q: Will this DOS program work on my Windows PC?
A: Yes, and Thanks to a tip from an enthusiastic Dance user, we can now suggest a superior DOS emulator for running Dance on newer computers. The Emulator is called DOSBox and it can be downloaded for free from www.dosbox.com
Q: Is there a Mac version?
A: No. But Mac folks have used it with a PC emulator. ARC can provide no support for this.
Q: Is ARC going to bring out an up-to-date Windows version of Dance?
A: This is a frequently asked question. Because it remains so unique and appreciated by so many, we hope that this may happen. Our problem all along has been that Dance is a very complex program, and porting it to Windows in the form we would want is a big undertaking and probably a poor business proposition. So we can make no promises, but we haven’t written off the future possibility either.
Q: If you haven’t updated the program, why are you distributing on CD now?
A: The floppy installation was in itself creating problems for some users. As a solution and a convenience to all, we decided to provide the full bundle of Dance QED and all stars in an easy to install form on CD.
Q: Aren’t I taking a big chance if I order Dance of the Planets and it doesn’t work on my system?
A: You can test operation of the program on your target system by downloading the Demo (see link above). If this demo program works you should be able to run the full version. ARC provides a money back guarantee if the full version can’t work on your Microsoft Windows system to your satisfaction.
Microsoft Windows® Operating Systems Dance operates successfully as a DOS application in all versions of Windows up tp Windows 7, although not in all cases and for all users. Laptops have particularly been problematic. The recommended emulator DOSBox (see above) may resolve many of these problems, but we have no way of knowing given the great diversity of PC, Laptops, etc. You may also download the Dance demo to test it on your hardware.