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Real-time NASA 'Eyes on Asteroids' tracking tool demystifies space rocks

Asteroids and comets and spacecraft, oh my!

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Amanda Kooser
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Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
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NASA's Eyes on Asteroids tracking tool lets you follow along with near-Earth objects.

Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

If you only ever pay attention to certain headlines, you might think Earth is constantly about to be bombarded by killer asteroids. A new NASA asteroid tracking tool should help calm your nerves. 

Eyes on Asteroids is an online app that offers up a 3D view of the solar system with real-time tracking of asteroids and comets. You'll spot some famous space objects, like Didymos (target of NASA's DART mission) and Bennu (visited by the Osiris-Rex mission). The app also gives the locations of spacecraft like DART and Lucy

Besides giving us an overview of our space neighborhood, the app lets you dial into details on orbital paths and close approaches to Earth. So if you click on asteroid Apophis, for example, you'll find out it will pass less than 23,618 miles (38,008 kilometers) from our planet in 2029. That will be exciting.

One of the niftiest app features is the Asteroid Watch option. It gives the next five closest approaches of near-Earth objects (NEOs) along with a visualization that shows how far from our planet they will pass. "The headlines often depict these close approaches as 'dangerously' close, but users will see by using Eyes just how distant most of these encounters really are," NASA's Jason Craig, who worked on the app, said in a statement on Friday.

Eyes on Asteroids contains layers of NEO information, enough to entertain and enlighten you for hours. With twice-daily updates, you can also learn about new asteroids and comets as they're spotted and added to NASA's database. So the next time you hear about an asteroid swinging by, pop over to Eyes and get some perspective.