You Can Visit Real Alien Planets in VR Thanks to This Awesome New Simulation

Ever wonder what it would be like to stand on an alien planet while you're lacerated by burning rain? Most exoplanets might not be great to visit in real life, but a new 360-degree video brings the experience to the safety of virtual reality, offering viewers a tour of six exoplanets across the universe.

The tour comes from animation-and-virtual-effects house Engine House VFX, which teamed up with the Bristol Science Centre and exoplanet scientists at the University of Exeter, in England.

"Each one of [the Milky Way's] hundred billion stars has its own planets, its own strange worlds," Ross Exton, the narrator of the video, said. "Imagine what it would be like to visit some of those exoplanets beyond our own little solar system." [Wildest Alien Planet Discoveries of 2016]

The six planets include the planetary laboratory LkCa 15 b, the melting "hot Jupiter" planet WASP-121b, the strong-winded HD209458b, the "Interstellar"-like water world Kepler-62e, the molten surface of 55 Cancri e and the Earth-size planet TRAPPIST-1e. Scientists also offer commentary on the planets' environments. 

For example, HD 209458b certainly doesn't sound very hospitable. "At wind speeds of 5 kilometers [3 miles] per second, you effectively are going to be lacerated by glass rain and molten iron. So these aren't particularly nice places to visit," University of Exeter research fellow Stefan Lines said in the video.

The dust disk LkCa 15 b reveals mysteries about planetary formation, added University of Exeter postgraduate researcher Elisabeth Matthews: "Sometimes they [the particles] stick, and sometimes they bounce off, and no one really knows how they can stick around long enough to become a planet."

Engine House VFX was established in 2008 and has previously collaborated on projects with Coca-Cola and Ubisoft. The company's previous work includes animated covers for Steven King novels and working on effects for a sci-fi short called "The Leap."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: