Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A new 3D real-time visualization tool reveals our near-Earth object neighborhood

Watch all the known near-Earth asteroids and comets in real-time as they orbit the Sun.

Astronomers discover several asteroids and dozens of comets every year. Some of these objects are near-Earth objects (NEOs) that follow orbits that pass through the inner solar system.

NASA-funded astronomers carefully track these objects, if any might pose a threat to Earth.

NASA has introduced a 3D real-time visualization tool called NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids to explore near-Earth objects approaching Earth’s orbital neighborhood.

NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids is a 3D real-time web-based application that depicts every known NEO’s orbit. Using the slider at the bottom of the screen, you can quickly travel back and forth to view their orbital motion through time.

NASA updates the application with the latest data daily. A new object is discovered, and its orbit is calculated, it’s added to the app.

NASA developed this tool with support from NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office at the agency’s headquarters in Washington and from JPL’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

This new 3D real-time visualization tool also allows us to explore many NEO missions. Select the ‘Event’ tab, and it will give you detailed animated models of those spacecraft and their asteroid or comet encounters.

Fully interactive, Eyes on Asteroids uses science data to help visualize asteroid and comet orbits around the Sun. Zoom in to travel along with your favorite spacecraft as they explore these fascinating near-Earth objects in beautiful 3D. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jason Craig, a technical producer of the Visualization Technology Applications and Development team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said“We wanted Eyes on Asteroids to be as user-friendly as possible while telling the stories about humanity’s exploration of these fascinating objects. Every NEO can be found inside the app, as can most spacecraft that have visited these objects.”

“While you’re on the topic, choose the “Asteroid Watch” tab to see the next five asteroid close approaches. We were keen to include this feature, as close asteroid approaches often generate interest. The headlines often depict these close approaches as ‘dangerously’ close, but users will see by using Eyes just how distant most of these encounters are.”

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