Take a first-person journey across the landscape of six exoplanets in this virtual exoplanet tour, above. The planets include Wasp-121b, a world whose atmosphere is being driven off by its parent star; Kepler-62e, which may be covered by a deep ocean and ravaged by monster waves; and 55 Cancri e, a hellish world likely covered in vast lava flows and engulfed in huge lightning storms. The virtual tour – with its 360-degree visual display – was designed and created by astrophysicists from the University of Exeter, in conjunction with the science center We The Curious in Bristol, U.K., and visual effects artists from Cornwall-based animation studio Engine House.
The tour has had over a million YouTube views since launching in late 2017.
Astronomer Nathan Mayne of the University of Exeter said in a statement:
It is great to know that our research into distant planets has fascinated so many people. However, more importantly hopefully through this video we have been able to explain and demystify our research enabling everyone to understand and get excited about our exploration of the planets in our galaxy … The mini-documentary gives a snapshot of astrophysical techniques, and what we have learned about planets using them.
Ross Exton, video producer for We The Curious, added:
I wanted to create something I’d never seen before. By collaborating with talented visual effects artists and astrophysicists currently studying these exoplanets, we were able to create a series of visuals which are not only stunning, but are informed by real scientific research.
Bottom line: Take a virtual tour of six exoplanets.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.