Virtual reality app provides view of Pluto

Posted on Jul 14, 2016 in Alumni News and News

The Heart of Pluto | Clyde Tombaugh
Jayhawks have always been proud of our ties to Pluto and the man who discovered it in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh. After all, how many alumni can claim that one of their own discovered a major celestial object? Although many were disheartened when the planet was downgraded to dwarf planet status in 2005, Pluto will always remain special.

In a significant first for any space scientist, Tombaugh’s ashes headed to the planet on the fastest spacecraft ever launched. New Horizons, a robot on a mission to “map the unknown,” took nine and half years to reach the dwarf planet. On July 14th, 2015, Earth time, with one short fly by, and just one opportunity, the spacecraft flashed through the skies of Pluto.

The crystal clear images of a world never before seen by human eyes have been released in a video by the New York Times. You can view “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart” through the free app, NYT VR, available for either iPhone or Android. You’ll have the best immersive experience if you use Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer that works with your smartphone, but you can still watch virtual reality stories on your phone without one.

The images show a rugged world of ice and frost with mountain ranges and sheets of ice that form Pluto’s “heart,” and the cracked and split ice surface of its’ moon, Charon. As New Horizon pulled away, cameras pivoted to capture Pluto’s atmosphere.

Isn’t it fitting that of that pale dot that Clyde Tombaugh first discovered so long ago, our final view is a halo of heavenly KU blue?

—Susan Younger

Google Cardboard Viewers
If you are looking for a summer science project, you can build your own Google Cardboard Viewer. This viewer is gaining in popularity, and  it adapts your phone with a construction/gadget that is like one of those old View-Master toys, that simulate 3D. ComputerWorld released this do-it-yourself guide specifically for the NYT VR app, which includes the viewer format. (Or, click here to order an inexpensive one online).

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