This is a suggestion, not for SpaceEngine in specific, but for what you could extend SpaceEngine to be as a scientific platform.
SpaceEngine is an absolutely amazing tool, not only in it's graphics and playable value, but also as a scientific tool. My proposition is to break SpaceEngine into two somewhat separate platforms: One, which is what is now SpaceEngine, and another focused solely on the scientific aspect of the simulator. This could be a legitimately useful tool for actual astronomers. What would be the difference? Here's a list of somethings which would be different between the two versions:
- It would not have any procedure bodies, it would just get it's information from actual star, galaxy and planet catalogs. So how would it fill the universe to make it look alive? I am thinking that it could still have procedural stars, however they can't be interacted with. You can't click on them, they're only ever really dots to make flying around in the galaxy look realistic. You can distinguish between actual stars and those "phantom stars" by hovering your mouse over them - phantom stars won't do anything, but real stars will show a little selector around them. Also, they won't appear near the solar system, only when it gets far away enough from us to have a lack of real stars would they start showing up.
- The more advanced tools, such as the universe map and system charts, would be the central features. More game-play related aspects would be removed (Spaceships, for example). Graphics related settings would be less of a priority, and would be hidden within the settings menu, cleaning up the GUI in order to give more focus to the important tools. The search function would also be a more prominent tool.
- All stars and planets could have more detailed info and statistics about them - Maybe there's some database that could be used? Wikipedia maybe?
- Maybe some additional scientific features, such as a visualization of magnetic fields, possibly? I don't know, there's lots of options.
- Another possible new feature for astronomers would be the ability to select a location and time on Earth, and be able to look at the night sky from that vantage point, allowing people to look up what constellations, stars, and galaxies they're seeing in real life.
As for naming, I feel like SpaceEngine would actually be very fitting for this alternate version, as it sounds somewhat technical. So maybe the names could be switched - SpaceEngine for the scientific version, and some other name for what is currently SpaceEngine.
Anyway, that's about it, I hope you consider this because I do think it has a lot of potential.