Asteroid-watching is an incredible experience but is usually only enjoyed by those with powerful telescopes or space-interested organizations. Fortunately, a recent launch by NASA has made it so you can also indulge and from the comfort of your own home, no less.
The new 3D real-time visualization tool NASA developed works on both mobile and computers. Dubbed Eyes on Asteroids, the tool allows you to look at asteroids and comets that approach Earth’s general vicinity and orbit. Additionally, you can view the different spacecraft that visit these objects, and only with a click or swipe. NASA reports all you need is an internet connection, no download is required.
NASA revealed thousands of asteroids and dozens of comets are discovered every year, some of which are Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). These objects follow orbits that pass through the inner solar system. Eyes on Asteroids not only displays the orbits of every known NEO but gives detailed information on them. The slider at the bottom of the screen lets you travel back and forth through time to see their orbits. NASA also updates the tool twice a day, so the data is incredibly accurate.
The app even allows users to view NEO missions. By selecting the “events” tab, you can view recreated mission sequences of events that have transpired. A perfect example is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission, which launched a rocket to gently nudge an asteroid to avoid a potential collision with Earth.
Jason Craig, technical producer of the Visualization Applications and Development team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, developed the tool. “We wanted Eyes on Asteroids to be as user-friendly as possible while telling the stories about humanity’s exploration of these fascinating objects,” he stated.
On a personal note, I highly recommend checking it out.
Asteroid Expected to Come Close to Earth on Christmas Eve
On the subject of watching asteroids, it appears we’ll be getting a bit of a treat on Christmas Eve. It’s not exactly a gift from Santa, but an asteroid will reportedly come close to Earth on December 24.
NASA reports Asteroid 2016 TR54 will fly by early on Christmas Eve. Arriving around 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time, it is an Aten-class asteroid. Around the size of a small bus, it’s classified as a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), but isn’t actually dangerous. Computer simulations say there is no likelihood of it colliding with Earth anytime soon.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but to the naked eye, we won’t even be able to see it. In fact, it will take a high-powered telescope to get a glance at it at all.
Nonetheless, now that we have Eyes on Asteroids, it may be the perfect opportunity to give the app a whirl.