Although I find this topic interesting, I wonder if study of it, e.g., the various worlds and universes and the beings that inhabit them, what they did to get there, where they go once they leave there, etc, is part of developing the eightfold path? All of the details can overwhelm me and lead toward doubt, so I recently found myself asking if that information is necessary for right view.
No, it is not necessary at all! In fact, I'd say these views are a hindrance to developing the eightfold path in a modern context. You will find that a lot of answers here will be from the viewpoint of orthodox Buddhism. You can find sound advise for cultivating in the modern world from more secular teachers like Thich Nhat Hahn, Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, and many others.
I believe it is what makes up/ part of a comprehensive "right view", but not encouraged to be a main focus of realizing the Dharma. It is the kind of topic that leads to answers somewhere along the lines of "Don't ask about the shape of Arrow stabbed on your back" once this topic is dived into.
From a worldly perspective, talking too much about the metaphysical cosmology will likely attract unnecessary skepticism from materialists and worldly scientists, which adds little to no value for one's own practice of the Eight-Folds Path.
Personally I feel it is good to know the framework / core principles of it, certainly satisfy the aspect of curiosity, and aspect of "how things work" logically, but that's about it.
The real world is fundamentally unknowable, ignorance being the starting point of dependent origination. The mind makes a useful, practical sense of the real world using symbolism, memory etc. So that to break out of the constraints of formal language, visual symbolism is a powerful tool and is worth the time and effort to develop some fluency in this medium. The trick is to be imaginative, creative and relevant to one's personal experience; a "mapping out", as it were. Secondly, stick religiously to the Buddhist system and you won't be disappointed.
From my (Mahayana) perspective, studying Buddhist cosmology is tremendously useful. Especially if the teacher or text goes in depth on psychological characteristics of beings in each realm, how they perceive reality, what motivates them, what keeps them going in circles etc.
It's actually a product of the path, to see the wandering on clearly. And: It's "terrible" nessecary to have firm faith into kamma, cause and effect, yes. Without that, no way. It's not nessecary if wishing just to wander on comfortable, i.e. for gaming, if staying by simply generosity, good conducts and striving for higher.
Where do one likes to go? One would not stay, that's for sure.
(Note that is not given for binding to trade, exchange, stacks in the world but for bond toward liberation)
It is not is part of developing the noble eightfold path. Instead, it is a defiled, impure, egotistical idea that can have the benefit of leading to merit or morality (but it does not lead to enlightenment), as the sutta says below, it is literally a "dirty" ("effluent") sort of right view:
And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the other world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously arisen beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the other after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.
And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
There are 31 realms of existence or Gathi around each Chakrawata. The Gathi or attributes are simple to imagine. If you condition a mind a certain way, when born next, your existence will correspond to the kind of Gathi developed.
Our sun and the planets is one Chakrawata. There are millions of other Chakrawata in the universe where living beings exist.
They are composed of the same basic matter Apo, Thejo, Wayo and Patawi. Although due to differences in gravity etc their physical appearance may be different.
The 32 realms of existence of this Chakrawata are all around us. The beings are either made of coarse or fine matter. Human beings are coarse matter beings and so is the animal realm.
Coarse matter beings are born of womb and fine matter beings spontaneously born and die. That is why the coarse matter beings are in Ghandabba stage before a suitable mother is found.
A fine matter being was perhaps captured here.
More footage can be found on youtube with "SLS camera footage" keyword search or similar.
The Chakrawta will end one day. The way the Buddha explained is here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RasmDzXoZA
The human beings are special in that they are born with a Manasa i.e. the mental facaulties to measure, judge etc. The other beings have a scent only.
The human beings mostly use the mental faculties for destructive purposes. They are the ones who do the most damage from all beings.
Although the human condition is the ideal condition to free oneself from all suffering if they live using yoniso-manisikara . This is why the Buddha said being human is incredibly rare and a privilege that one must use to escape this all.