Golf Sector 6

What will it be like to do ordinary things on the extraordinary alien worlds of our solar system? For instance, will we still play our favorite games? In 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, astronaut Alan Shepard hit a few golf balls on Earth's moon, where the gravity is six times weaker than on Earth. But what if you took a swing on Hyperion, where the gravity is 500 times weaker than on Earth? How gently would you have to swing to prevent the ball from going into orbit?

GOLF SECTOR 6 is an easy-to-play, Flash-based golf game that lets you tee off on Saturn's moons. It is based on some of our most stunning images returned from the high resolution cameras onboard the Cassini spacecraft that have been processed by CICLOPS and released to the public here on this website. Each of Saturn's moons has its own weak gravity, which should keep things interesting, so be sure to take that into account when you make your swing! Just like golfing on Earth, the goal is to hit the ball into the hole -- or in this case, the crater! -- using the smallest number of swings.

And don't worry about playing through or yelling, 'FORE!'. The Saturn system is sparsely populated, and, in space, no on can hear you scream.

Starting a New Game
To start a new game of GOLF SECTOR 6, from the main start page, simply select one of the courses in the drop-down menu and then click the 'Start' button. GOLF SECTOR 6 offers several courses, such as the 'Front 9' and 'Back 9'. These are each 9-hole courses, each with its own unique set of moons on which to play. When you are finished with one course, you will be sent back to the main start page. Or, if you are in the middle of a course, you can click Quit to quit that course and go back to the main start page. From there, you can choose to continue to the next course, or Exit the game entirely. If you choose to Exit, the pop-up window you are playing in will close and you will be back at the GOLF SECTOR 6 page on the CICLOPS website.

Also, notice there are two panels in the upper-left and upper-right corners of the screen. The upper-left panel shows you your score and information on the current hole you are playing. The upper-right panel has the following buttons:

Exit: Exits the game entirely and closes the pop-up window
Quit: Quits the current course you are playing.
Help: Shows the help for the game.
Leader Board: Shows the top 50 best scores for each course.
Reset Shot: Resets a bad golf shot.

You can hide and show the panels anytime by clicking the arrow button on the panel.

Reading the Terrain
At any time, you can press the 'T' key on your keyboard to turn on or off the terrain model for the moon. (The terrain model is shown automatically at the beginning of each hole for a few seconds.) When the terrain lines are on, you will see an overlay of purple lines showing terrain boundaries that the ball cannot go past. These terrain lines indicate the local horizontal as well. The flag marking the hole is placed in a crater. Some craters/holes are bigger than others! The blue terrain lines near the flag define the size of the hole. Also, the golfer's body is always oriented along a line that points toward the moon's center of gravity (the point inside the moon from which its gravity is pulling).

How to Swing
To swing the club, simply click and hold, and then drag your mouse. You will see a green vector line drawn from the ball which points in the direction that the ball will go; the length of the line defines how hard you will hit the ball. Move your mouse while holding the mouse button to change the green vector line. Release the mouse button when you are ready to swing! The green vector must not go below the terrain model; otherwise you will be hitting the ball into the ground.

If you hit the ball off the screen, don't worry, the ball can come back into view as long as you do not exceed 500 pixels beyond the border of the screen. If you think you hit a ball into space, you can click the 'Reset' button to reset your ball but it will cost you a one-shot penalty (and a tiny amount of your dignity). Oh, and if you hit a ball into a complete orbit, watch out for it coming around and hitting you in the back of the head!

And, if you hit the ball into the hole, the golfer will 'launch' to the next hole. Be sure to keep the sound on your computer on, so you can enjoy the sound effects. (Yes, we know: there is no sound in space. See `Artistic License' below.)

Gravity and Scale
Each moon has a unique gravity. And each image has its own spatial scale. Both are indicated in the top left corner of the screen. A higher gravity means you will need to hit the ball harder, and vice-versa. A larger image scale means you will need to hit the ball softer and vice-versa. The red power indicator bar at the top left of the screen will help you determine how hard you need to hit the ball. It represents the contribution of these two variables: the longer the power indicator, the harder you will need to swing, and vice-versa. And, of course, the golfer's body is not drawn to scale: if it were, it would be too hard to see. But, the golfer's size varies depending on the image scale.

About the Physics
The acceleration (or deceleration) of a ball in flight is different on the various moons for a couple of reasons. For one thing, each moon has its own unique mass, or amount of stuff. Also, moons come in different sizes. Two moons of the same size could in fact have different masses. [Another way to say this is that the stuff that makes up a moon might be densely packed (like a hard block of ice or rock) or loose and fluffy (like fresh, powdery snow).] Ultimately, it's a moon's size and the amount of stuff or mass packed into the moon that determines the gravitational acceleration on its surface.

The acceleration due to gravity for each moon is calculated using Newton's gravity formula and assuming that each moon is spherical, which is obviously not the case for irregularly shaped bodies like Phoebe and Hyperion. We do not, in the present version, consider the gravitational effects of Saturn on the orbiting moon. All motion is taken to occur in a plane defined by the terrain model. Furthermore, the image scale is so large (hey, we're not complaining!) that to make a proper shot, the ball would be in the air for quite some time. To make the game more fun, the timescale has been artificially bumped up by a factor of 250 for most holes (for a few holes where the pixel scale is very small, the timescale is less to keep the playability consistent with other holes).

Special Keys
These keyboard keys have the following functionality in the game:

* 'T': Use the 'T' key to toggle the visibility of the moon's terrain model.
* 1-9: Use the one through nine keys to skip to any of the nine holes of a course. However, this will void your score for that course and you will need to start a new game to reset your score.

Artistic License
To make a fully realistic golfing game, showing the proper background scenery as it might appear if you were observing a golfer on a moon of Saturn while using real Cassini images, would be impossible. We simply do not have images of Saturn taken from all the lighting and viewing circumstances shown in this game to pull it off. So, we have taken artistic license in placing Saturn in the background while the game is underway. Perhaps sometime in the future, we might add an animation, rendered by an artist, that illustrates background objects, like Saturn and other moons, properly. Also, since this is a 2-dimensional game, the gravitational effects of Saturn and the moon's orbital motion around Saturn are not taken into account. In the future, we will attempt a more realistic, 3-dimensional golfing game. Til then, we hope you enjoy the game.

Questions? Comments?
Email with any questions, comments, suggestions, or bugs. Thanks for golfing!