Visit Exotic Exoplanets with NASA Visualization Tool

NASA has created a virtual reality tool that lets you explore the imagined surface of exoplanet Kepler-186f (shown here in an animation) and other potentially habitable worlds. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
You don’t need a spaceship to explore alien worlds. An interactive, 360-degree NASA visualization tool puts you on the surface of TRAPPIST-1d, Kepler-186f and a handful of other exoplanets.

By Mike Wall |

You can look all around and up, getting an eyeful of exotic landscapes and bizarre skies. And you can even do some planetary engineering, adding or removing an atmosphere and seeing how that tweak changes things. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]

As the tool points out, these are all imagined vistas: Even the closest alien planets are much too distant to photograph in any detail from Earth’s neighborhood. And once you get as far out as Kepler-186f, which lies 492 light-years from the sun, even some of the most basic characteristics about a world remain elusive.

„Because Kepler-186f and the majority of Kepler-discovered planets are so distant, it is currently impossible to detect their atmospheres — if they exist at all — or characterize their atmospheric properties,“ said Martin Still, the program scientist for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched last month.

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