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ESO's virtual tour: Travel to outer space from the comfort of your home

From Earth-like exoplanets to one of the biggest observatories in the Southern Hemisphere, these free virtual tours take you to the far corners of the universe

An artist's impression of the exoplanet Kepler-186f (Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)
An artist's impression of the exoplanet Kepler-186f (Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

The month of July is synonymous with a milestone in human spaceflight. On 16 July 1969, the Apollo-11 mission blasted off on a historic mission to the Moon. Four days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the Moon. The rest is history.

Interest in astronomy and spaceflight has never peaked so much, with plenty of new Martian and space telescopes in the offing this year and 2021. And starting today, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an astrophysical organization founded in 1962, will begin virtual guided tours to two of its most renowned observatories in northern Chile. From your home you can enjoy these on-site tours for free. Here’s a look at some other virtual tours themed on astronomy and space.

ESO’s Observatories

Starting this evening, at 6.30 pm IST, ESO will host weekly English virtual-guided tours to its Paranal and La Silla observatories. The Paranal Observatory is located in Chile’s Atacama desert and sits at an altitude of 2,635 metres. La Silla meanwhile is one of the biggest observatories in the Southern Hemisphere. In these virtual tours, which will be free and open to everyone, visitors will be able to see iconic parts of the observatories, such as the Very Large Telescope in Paranal or the ESO 3.6-metre telescope in La Silla.

According to an official announcement, visitors will also be able to enjoy a guided tour of the night sky above these observatories. Since both Paranal and La Silla are located away from major sources of light and pollution, these locations have some of the darkest night skies anywhere on Earth. These tours will be approximately 30 minutes long and will be streamed on the ESO’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel.

For more details, visit or

Google Street View: The International Space Station

You can always use the Street View feature in Google Maps or Google Earth to virtually visit a favourite city or landmark around the world, but you can also see some magnificent views of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS)’s famous Cupola Observational Module.

The cupola is just one of the many modules of the ISS that can be seen through this feature, which lets you visit the space station virtually. This is more like a self-guided 360 degree tour where you can see everything from Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module, to the Columbus Research Laboratory on the ISS. As you move around, you are guided by supporting photographs and detailed descriptions (‘knowledge cards’) on how astronauts use different modules to live and conduct research on the ISS.

For more details, visit Google Maps or the Guided Tours section on

Nasa at home virtual tours

Nasa’s at home virtual tours and apps section has a bunch of things to explore. But our pick of the lot is the Exoplanet Travel Bureau virtual tour, which takes you to some of the farthest exoplanets and planets of other stars known to man. You can explore 360-degree visualizations of the surfaces of these planets. This tour works on desktop, mobile and is even optimized for Google Cardboard.

Imagine exploring the surface of exoplanet Kepler 186-f, which is the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone (a range of distance from a star where liquid water is likely to be present on the planet's surface). You can even look at how TRAPPIST-1d looks. This is one of the seven Earth-size planets that closely orbit a faint star called TRAPPIST-1. These are all, of course, artist impressions but offer a brilliant understanding of how potentially habitable planets, other than the Earth, might look.

For more details, visit

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