NASA launches Web tool to explore the solar system

Want to explore the solar system and follow NASA space missions in real time?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is giving the public the chance to do just that through a new Internet-based tool called Eyes on the Solar System. The space agency said the tool combines video-game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft as they explore the cosmos.

"You are now free to move about the solar system," Blaine Baggett, a manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Calif., said in a statement. "See what NASA’s spacecraft see - and where they are right now - all without leaving your computer."

By using a keyboard and a mouse, online users can zip through space and explore anything that catches their interest. For example, NASA in August launched a probe called Juno that will explore Jupiter.

Users can follow the Juno spacecraft, literally peering over its shoulder to get a bird’s-eye view of what it sees - and even find out what’s ahead on its five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet.

The technology also allows users to switch their point of view from far away to close up to right on board spacecraft, and also to switch from 2-D or 3-D modes. By putting on 3-D glasses, users can see flat images transform into multidimensional illustrations.

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