New Horizons Encounter with Pluto and its moons
This app shows a realtime display of the New Horizons spacecraft and its encounter with pluto and its moons using data from the NASA's JPL website.
UPDATE: We now show an animation that starts just before the encounter, with time speeded up. To see New Horizons and Pluto as a Live view, open the control panel and click the large yellow buttons to reset everything to real time.
This view uses automatic scaling to ensure that the new horizons spacecraft and pluto are always on screen. Because new horizons is travelling so fast (43,000 kilometers per hour or 27,000 miles per hour), the encounter (if you fast forward the time) appears to happen in a flash. However if you are careful when winding time forwards and backwards then you will see the flyby in good detail.
The best view was in real time as New Horizons passed on the 14th July 2015 at 11:49 UTC. If viewing this app with the time set to two days or more away from closest approach, then Pluto is seen as a smudge made up of the labels of it and its moons.
No Photos on the Day
There were no "live" photos sent home on the day of the fly-by because New Horizons was having a very busy day collecting data. To make the spacecraft as reliable as possible there are as few moving parts as possible and so all the instruments and the communications antenna are fixed. This means the whole spacecraft has to turn to point its instruments which in turn meant that the antenna couldn't be pointed at earth when data was being collected during the fly-by.
Now that the spacecraft is moving away from Pluto and not taking so many measurements, data can now be transmitted back to earth. It will take 16 months for all the data to be relayed to earth because the huge distance and low power of the transmitter mean that the bandwidth is around a tiny 1 kilobits per second - about 8000 times slower than a resonable broadband connection.
To see latest images, and an interesting video on New Horizons and its flyby activities see our New Horizons page.
NASA's 3D App
To see the encounter from the spacecrafts view, why not download the NASA App, select the New Horizons from the Tours & Features options and see how New Horizons scans Pluto and its moons throughout the fly-by. You can see the spacecraft as it is now or pre/review the fly-by.
For technical description of the instruments carried by New Horizons, visit this John Hopkins page.