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Investigate distant exoplanets with these NASA simulations



One of the coolest scientific discoveries in the last 25 years is that our galaxy is full of alien worlds. Scientists have discovered nearly 4,000 exoplanets orbiting stars outside the Solar System, and the chase gains momentum as more sophisticated telescopes become operational.

While it is electrifying to know that the universe is flooded in planets, even the most powerful telescopes can not capture detailed features like the view of the sky from their surfaces. But NASA has the next best thing: the Exoplanet Travel Bureau, which features retro-style interstellar tourism posters and an interactive tool that simulates views on known exoplanets based on real-life science about their properties.

For example, NASA recently debuted a 360-degree surface visualization of Kepler-1

86f, an Earth-like planet 550 light-years away. Kepler-186f has intrigued exoplanet enthusiasts by orbiting a small red dwarf star within the habitable zone – meaning that liquid water could possibly exist on the planet's surface – making it a succulent candidate in search of extraterrestrial life.

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

In NASA's visualization, you can experience Kepler-186f with and without atmosphere because the planet is too far away to obtain atmospheric data. The difference between the perceptions of each world is dramatic, underscoring the importance of an atmosphere for liveability ratings.

Read More: NASA Mocks Us with Exoplanet Tourism Posters

You can also view visualizations of Saturn's planet Kepler-16b, which is 200 light-years from Earth. Here two shadows are thrown because of the proximity to two stars.

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

There is also a virtual tour of TRAPPIST-1d, just 40 light-years away, which is part of a solar system crammed with planets on Earth. In fact, the prospect of Kepler-16b and TRAPPIST-1d is a great heavenly feast for the eyes, as their sibling planets appear much larger in the sky than our neighboring planets.

Nobody knows what these newly identified goals actually look like and these simulations are probably romanized versions of the truth. But given that it will probably take centuries before people catch a glimpse of any exoplanets, we should, if we ever do, lift your belief for a second so that you can enjoy those beautiful speculative landscapes of truly existing worlds. 19659002] Get six of our most popular motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .


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