At 7:49 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto. It was a moment for the history books.
But if you missed it, there’s good news.
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 during its flight.
In the bottom left there’s a countdown window that shows how many miles and hours to go until the spacecraft’s closest 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 live mode won’t do you much good right now. But the preview mode shows the whole flyby 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.
We don’t have any live footage of the New Horizons flyby because the spacecraft is too far away for any of our telescopes to spot. We’ll have confirmation that the flyby was successful at 8:53 p.m. EDT tonight. 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.
NASA will be live streaming Pluto coverage most of today leading up to the confirmation.
If you missed the flyby you can watch what the last eight hours of New Horizon’s final approach looked like sped up into this one-minute video using the NASA app:
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