The virtual planet tour provides a spectacular first-person journey across the landscape of six exoplanets

Stunning virtual tour of exoplanets wins prestigious award

A stunning virtual reality documentary that allows budding astronomers and space enthusiasts to explore the exotic worlds orbiting distant stars has been honoured with a special pan-European award.

The virtual planet tour, which provides a spectacular first-person journey across the landscape of six exoplanets, received the Bronze award within the Internet Video category of the Lovie Awards, announced on Wednesday.

The tour was designed and created by astrophysicists from the University of Exeter, in collaboration with ‘We The Curious’ in Bristol and visual effects artists from Cornwall-based animation studio Engine House. Alongside one other video it was recognised with a Bronze award in the “360 video” sub-category, and further singly honoured with the People’s Choice Award, for this category decided by a public vote.

Speaking after the announcement, Nathan Mayne, from the University of Exeter and scientific lead on the project said: “I am absolutely delighted that the visualisation we created together secured a Bronze Award and People's Choice Award at this year’s Lovie Awards.

“Bringing our research on exoplanets to life for more than two million viewers of this video has been a rewarding experience, and we are working hard on a bigger, better follow-up."

The team created a detailed 360° visual display to teleport viewers from Earth to these exotic worlds, to see how they differ from our own planet. The researchers also provide a commentary to guide virtual space travellers through the experience, and explain the science behind the images.

Since launching late last year, the virtual planet tour has attracted more than two million views on the social media channel, Youtube.

“We are over the moon that our work on Exoplanet Explorer has won at the Lovie Awards,” said Jason Robbins, co-director of Engine House. “We worked hard to create scientifically accurate exoplanet environments and make our viewers completely immersed in a voyage of discovery across the stars, capturing images that have never been witnessed by human eyes. We feel honoured to be recognised among the best in Europe.”

Anna Starkey, Chief Creative Officer for We The Curious added:  “It’s been really exciting to see this project get so much interest online, and as a 360 VR experience we were also able to integrate it into our Planetarium shows here at We the Curious, so it’s been fun and very satisfying seeing people respond to it on different platforms. It’s the result of a really enjoyable collaboration, with our team here working alongside the animators at Engine House, and research expertise at the University of Exeter to bring the whole thing together.  The work being recognised with an award alongside such a large audience enjoying it, is a lovely thing for everyone involved to receive.”

The pioneering video transports viewers to a range of exotic planets beyond our solar system.

These planets include: Wasp - 121b, a planet so close to its star that its atmosphere is being driven off by its parent star; Kepler-62e, a planet which is potentially entirely covered by a deep ocean, and ravaged by monster waves, and 55 Cancri e, a hellish planet likely to be covered in vast lava flows and constantly engulfed in huge lightning storms.

The Lovie Awards is the only pan-European award recognising online excellence, in seven native languages.  Now in its 8th year, it received nearly 1,500 entries from more than 30 European countries, and over 50,000 votes in the People's Lovie Awards.

Date: 11 October 2018

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