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Jon‘s endeavour to find the source of an X-ray flare takes him to the edge of oblivion.

From Earth, a small telescope will unveil NGC 4845 as a spiral galaxy in Virgo, shining at a magnitude of +11.2

Jon heads into the Milky Way’s bulge, to a region where the stars are legion.

One of my greatest astronomical fascinations is imagining the kind of night sky visible from the centre of our Galaxy, that massive sphere of densely packed stars called the ‘galactic bulge’.

Jon takes another leap into the future to witness the eventual fate of a star like ours.

With great trepidation I must visit the system of Kepler 56. This star, some 2,800 lightyears away and around four times the size of our Sun, has become what’s known as a ‘G0V’. It has crossed that critical, irreversible borderline on its transition to the status of a red giant.

Jon pops 40 years into the future to hear a METI transmission reach its destination.

I’ve decided to stay in the 55 Cancri system a little longer to visit a moon of 55 Cancri f, a gas giant contentedly perched at the heart of its star’s habitable zone.

Jon travels to a planet where the mountains are capped not with snow, but diamonds.

The astonishing alien splendour of the Upsilon Andromedae system enthralled the senses – it seems fitting that the first multi-planetary system around a main sequence star discovered by humans should be such a spectacular one.

Holy hot Jupiters Batman – it’s a multiple planetary system around a main-sequence star.

My excursions tend to evoke one of two moods in me: a fascination with violent extremes or a thirst to see peaceful alien vistas of breathtaking beauty.

Neither planet nor star, Jon’s next stop sits in the murky borderlands of cosmic classification.

Drifting through the Galaxy like a dirty faced Dickensian orphan trudging up a foggy, cobbled road, the wandering rogue world I encountered on my last voyage – Obsidiana – evoked an odd feeling of pity.

Jon swaps paradise for thick ice as he continues his tour of the Kepler 62 system.

Sitting at the controls of the Cruiser Globe, I’m gripped by an urge to experience the unfathomable infinity of the Universe.

Jon swaps paradise for thick ice as he continues his tour of the Kepler 62 system.

Pulsar planets and lava worlds are spellbinding to look upon, but these dangerous environments mean that 
only the briefest visits are possible. Kepler 62e – where we stopped last month – is the utter opposite. It’s a paradise world where the most natural reaction 
is a desire to stay for many decades. For 
a while, then, we shall.

 

Jon feels the pangs of home as he travels to a watery super-Earth in Lyra.

Our first few Exoplanet Excursions have been rather extreme – the molten environment of Alpha Centauri Bb and radiation-saturated pulsar PSR 1257+12 testing the resilience of the Cruiser Globe* to its limits.

Jon’s travelogue continues with a trip to the wasted surface of a world orbiting a pulsar.

Much emboldened by our last trip to the lava planet Alpha Centauri Bb, we’re now confident enough to travel further. With a strong thirst to witness an environment even more alien and unrecognisable, we’re travelling towards the constellation of Virgo and the pulsar PSR 1257+12 – a catchy name, derived from its coordinates and an acronym for ‘pulsating source of radio’.

 

Jon Culshaw's off-world travelogue kicks off with a trip to our nearest star system.

Today we are living though a deliciously effervescent period of discovery – a new and beautifully alien exoplanet being discovered almost weekly. What once seemed unreachable 
is drawing closer to us.

 

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