This NASA App Lets You Fly Along with New Horizons

By Kiona Smith-Strickland on at

The New Horizons spacecraft will start the busiest phase of its flight tomorrow as it makes its closest approach to Pluto, you can watch from home with NASA’s Eyes on Pluto app.

Eyes on Pluto is a module within NASA’s Eyes visualisation program, which lets you explore space through simulations built with real NASA spacecraft data. You can study Earth from space through the eyes of Earth science satellites (tip: the water and ice map is pretty cool), explore the Solar System, and even check out a few exoplanets.

And, of course, you can watch New Horizons prepare to buzz Pluto. In Live mode, you can watch a computer-generated visualisation of New Horizons approaching Pluto and its system of tiny moons; it’s what the approach would look like in real time if you were hanging onto the back of New Horizons and had somehow survived the trip anyway. We’ve seen some great images of Pluto over the last few days, but this visualisation shows just how small a target Pluto is in a vast solar system, which makes those images even more remarkable.

Of course, the view in Live Mode doesn’t change very quickly, but you can watch the miles drop away in the “Distance to Pluto” countdown in the lower left corner. There’s also a countdown of the time to closest approach, so you know when to go grab some popcorn for the big event.

Meanwhile, if you switch to Preview mode, you can see an animated preview of the flyby.

NASA’s Eyes is available for Macs and PCs, and it’s free to download.