Pluto flyby prompts surge of traffic to NASA site

Pluto flyby prompts surge of traffic to NASA site
© NASA

Traffic to NASA's website boomed Tuesday morning as the agency's New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto.

As of Tuesday morning, NASA had eight of the top 10 most viewed government web pages. During the 7 a.m. hour when the spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto, more than 900,000 people were on a government website.

After the approach at 7:49 a.m. and into the 8 a.m. hour, that number dropped back down to a little over 100,000.

The numbers come from analytics.usa.gov which was started back in March to aggregate statistics on government Web traffic using a unified Google Analytics account.

Government weather forecasts, the Internal Revenue Service and the National Library of Medicine website have been the most visited over the last month. But NASA has also received more than 10 million visits during that time.

The New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in 2006, has been sending back the crispest photos of Pluto as it made its closest approach Tuesday morning. Some of the photos have helped scientists determine a more precise measurement of Pluto, which they said is slightly larger than prior estimates.

The spacecraft is in data gathering mode. Once it reestablishes contact with Earth Tuesday night, NASA said it will take 16 months to transmit its 10 years worth of data.