Warm Up With a Virtual Tour of Lava-Covered Exoplanet 55 Ca…


Can’t afford a vacation this year? Have no fear, NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP) is here.

The website takes armchair astronomers on a digital journey light years away, to new planets outside our Solar System—including a molten world called 55 Cancri e.

Astronomers are constantly discovering new planets outside our Solar System. But even the nearest of these mysterious orbs is too far to sojourn.

Thankfully, NASA has done most of the heavy lifting, launching 360-degree visualizations of alien worlds—depicted as “an artist’s impression of what an exoplanet surface might look like, based on limited data.”

Keep in mind that no actual images of these planets exist (yet).

The site’s latest addition is 55 Cancri e, a globe that may be covered in a lava ocean, with a star 65 times closer to the planet than the Sun is to Earth. On its cooler nightside, silicate vapor in the atmosphere may condense into sparkling clouds that reflect the molten rock below.

Simply move your mouse to experience a full 360-degree view; mobile and VR headset users can tilt their phone/face up, down, right, and left to see every aspect.

NASA also unveiled a new ExEP vintage travel poster, illustrating futuristic explorers gliding in a protective bubble over the red-hot landscape of 55 Cancri e.

The fun doesn’t end there, though.

A new interactive Web feature, called “Life and Death of a Planetary System,” takes readers on an in-depth journey through the formation, evolution, and eventual demise of a Solar System.

Plus, virtual tourists can explore thousands of new worlds via NASA’s Eyes on Exoplanets 2.0.

Fly through the galaxy and visit any of the nearly 4,000 known exoplanets, all visualized in 3D. Interstellar ports of call include the TRAPPIST-1 system, 55 Cancri e, WASP-12b, and Kepler-16b.

In 2018, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) began its two-year-long search for undiscovered worlds orbiting nearby stars; data collected by the observatory will help scientists look for signs of water or other molecules that might hint at a planet’s capacity to harbor life.

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