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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

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.