Turn your summer staycation into a cosmic holiday with a visit to one of the universe’s many exoplanets.
NASA has given UFO hunters, space boffins and astronomy enthusiasts an unprecedented opportunity to set foot on alien worlds and planets discovered by the incredible Kepler Space Telescope, with the aid of virtual reality technology.
The out-of-this-world trip “outside our solar system” is presented by NASA’s new virtual Exoplanet Travel Bureau.
The Exoplanet Travel Bureau is an interactive and explorable 360 degree visualisation tool of Kepler’s exoplanet discoveries.
Hopeful astronauts can now pay a visit to Trappist-1e, Kepler-16b, Kepler-186f, PSO J318.5-22, “Super Earth” HD 40307g and 51 Pegasi b without any need for NASA’s spacecrafts.
The alien landscapes are viewable on desktops and mobile devices and those feeling a little more adventurous can view them on smartphone-compatible virtual reality headsets.
NASA said in a statement: “Are you looking for an exotic destination to visit this summer?
“Why not take a virtual trip to an Earth-size planet beyond our solar system with NASA’s interactive Exoplanet Travel Bureau?
“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.
“But on NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration website, you can explore an imagined surface of an alien world via 360-degree, interactive visualisations.
“As you investigate each planet’s surface, you’ll discover fascinating features, like the blood-red sky of TRAPPIST-1d, or stand on a hypothetical moon of the massive planet Kepler-16b, which appears larger than either of the planet’s two suns.”
But exploring each exoplanet comes with a caveat – the virtual landscapes are 3D renders of what NASA’s artists think the planet surfaces look like.
NASA said: “You are viewing an artists’s impression of what an exoplanet might look like, based on limited data.
“No actual images of this planet exist.”
Exoplanets are distant worlds orbiting foreign stars in the far reaches of the cosmos.
NASA’s Kepler telescope, which launched in 2009, has to date found evidence of more than 3,700 exoplanets across the galaxy.
Astronomers hope many of these Kepler discoveries could one day uncover the secrets of life outside of Earth.
You can now visit a handful of these planets to get an idea of what these alien worlds might look like.
Alongside the 3D landscapes, visitors can download NASA’s gorgeous mock travel posters for each of the available exoplanets.
NASA said: “For even more information and visualisations of these alien worlds, check out NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets mobile app.
“The Exoplanet Travel Bureau was developed by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program communications team and program chief scientists.
“Based at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which is a division of Caltech, the program is NASA’s search for habitable planets and life beyond our solar system.
“The program develops technology and mission concepts, maintains exoplanet data archives and conducts ground-based exoplanet science for NASA missions.”