NASA now offers virtual journeys to planets the size of earth, located beyond our solar system, thanks to a new interactive web site called Exoplanet Travel Bureau.
All the 360-degree visualizations are viewable on desktop and mobile devices, or in virtual reality headsets that work with smartphones. You can also peruse travel posters of such distant worlds as Kepler-186f, TRAPPIST-1e, or PSO J318.5-22, where the “nightlife never ends” because the planet doesn’t orbit a star, but is instead floating freely through space.
We live in a universe teeming with exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. Unfortunately, even the nearest exoplanets are light-years away, so sending spacecraft and humans to these intriguing worlds remains a distant dream.
The range of discoveries that NASA is making about the Galaxy is growing rapidly and with each new planet, comes fascinating features like the blood red sky of TRAPPIST-1d, or the hypothetical moon of the huge planet Kepler-16b, which appears larger than any of the planet’s two suns.
When you access the web site you get to view virtual simulations of what an Exoplanet’s surface might look like using limited data. Real photo images do not exist, although posters of trips to distant worlds can be downloaded from the site.
The newest Exoplanet to feature this 360-degree surface visualization is Kepler-186f, an Earth-size planet orbiting a star much cooler and redder than the Sun. Scientists don’t know if Kepler-186f has an atmosphere, but with the NASA visualization tool, you can see how the presence or absence of an atmosphere would change the view of the sky from the planet’s surface.
The Exoplanet Travel Bureau was created by the communications team of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program and the principal scientists of the program, which belong to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the agency in Pasadena.