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Wolfram Alpha launches the coolest flight tracker ever

Service lets people find out which planes are flying overhead, where they took off from, and where they're headed.

Just some of the data Wolfram Alpha provides on overhead flights.
Just some of the data Wolfram Alpha provides on overhead flights. Wolfram Alpha

Have you ever wanted to know where the planes flying overhead were going? If so, you finally have a way to find out.

If you head over to Wolfram Alpha right now and input "flights overhead" into the search box, the site will return all the planes that are currently over your position, their altitude, angle, and slant distance. The site even displays a Sky map to show where planes are in relation to the position of the sun and moon.

But if you want more usable data, like where the planes took off from and where they're going, simply click on one of the flights, and you'll have all the information you need. Plus, you can see a map showing where the plane is currently, and what its flight path will be. Note that the information is five minutes old because the Federal Aviation Administration, which provides the data, builds a five-minute delay into its feeds.

I took some time to try out the new feature, which was announced yesterday, and I was impressed. The search works just as Wolfram Alpha has promised, and the data, while not all actionable, is great to have handy when you see a plane flying overhead and wonder what kind of aircraft it is and where it's going.

But as with other Wolfram Alpha features, this one comes with more detailed information than meets the eye. Let's say, for instance, you're on a flight and see something interesting on the ground while you're in the air. If you remember what time you saw it, you can go back to Wolfram Alpha next time you have an Internet connection and see exactly where you were at that point after inputting the time and flight number.

However, note that since the data comes from the FAA, only flights that have at least one endpoint--takeoff or landing--in the U.S. will show up.

One other note on the "flights overhead" feature: it works with the company's mobile application, so you can see planes overhead no matter where you are.