Where are you going on your next vacation? The beach? The Grand Canyon? Hiking in the mountains? NASA has a much better idea: How about an exoplanet? And, after seeing these gorgeously retro travel posters they've produced, we're ready to spacesuit up.
While we can't quite yet travel to an exoplanet ourselves, these posters from NASA's sadly not-yet-active Exoplanet Travel Bureau (presumably to be located somewhere out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and also in my dreams), have us doing some seriously long-range vacation planning.
The artwork — that both seems to harken back to another long ago great age of space exploration (check out that white picket fence blocking off the forests of Kepler-186f or the long shadows of the astronaut surveying the corral on Kepler 16-b) while also looking ahead to the strangeness of just what we might encounter on an exoplanet — is particularly gorgeous.
Here are the three posters — along with descriptions of the three fabulously far-off destinations they represent:
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially 'habitable zone' around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our Sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star's red-wavelength photons, making for a color palette that's very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA's planet hunting telescope.
Like Luke Skywalker's planet "Tatooine" in Star Wars, Kepler-16b orbits a pair of stars. Depicted here as a terrestrial planet, Kepler-16b might also be a gas giant like Saturn. Prospects for life on this unusual world aren't good, as it has a temperature similar to that of dry ice. But the discovery indicates that the movie's iconic double-sunset is anything but science fiction.
Twice as big in volume as the Earth, HD 40307g straddles the line between "Super-Earth" and "mini-Neptune" and scientists aren't sure if it has a rocky surface or one that's buried beneath thick layers of gas and ice. One thing is certain though: at eight time the Earth's mass, its gravitational pull is much, much stronger.