We won’t be able to watch NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft fly past Pluto in real time. But thanks to this awesome “Eyes on the Solar System” app developed by NASA, you can watch a simulation of the historic moment based on the New Horizons programmed flight plan.
Once you download the app and launch it you’ll see a New Horizons feature in the top right corner:
In the live view, the main window shows the spacecraft, Pluto, Pluto’s moon Charon, and few other objects farther out in the Kuiper belt. The right inset window shows which instruments on New Horizons are active. In the bottom left there’s a countdown window that shows how many miles and hours to go until the spacecraft’s closes approach to Pluto:
“The picture in picture view shows you where the spacecraft is looking and what its advanced instruments can see,” NASA explains. “You can use a ‘live’ mode to see what New Horizons is doing right now, or preview the flyby of the Pluto System.”
The preview mode shows the whole flight path trajectory, complete with the latest images of Pluto and Charon. The NASA visualisation team is updating them in the app as New Horizons continues to beam back more detailed images.
The flyby will happen at 7:49 a.m. EDT on July 14. NASA will start live streaming coverage at 7:30 a.m.
The morning countdown will not include any live footage because the spacecraft is too far away for any of our telescopes to spot. In fact we won’t even know if the flyby was successful until around 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday night. New Horizons will be too busy gathering data to touch base with mission control immediately, and the signal will take hours to get all the way back to Earth.
For now you can watch what the last eight hours of New Horizon’s final approach will look like sped up into this one-minute video using the app:
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