The Shuttle, the Station, and Orion

Contributed by
Mar 25, 2008
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I just got back down off my roof with The Little Astronomer; we were up there to watch the Shuttle and space station rise into the sky. The view was very cool: they rose over Boulder, and as they got higher they headed straight into Orion; specifically Rigel, the bright star marking Orion's knee. Even better: as they rose, they passed into the Earth's shadow. As the sunlight gradually dimmed for them, we saw them get fainter. We didn't see the Jules Verne remote cargo carrier, unfortunately. I'm not sure why.

Best yet: I got pictures! I loaded all six onto Flickr. Below are two cool shots; click them to embiggen to Flickr.

This is a 10 second exposure taken a few minutes after 9:00 p.m. The odd glow is from a neighbor's light across the street. It's pretty, though! You can see Rigel just above center, and Orion's belt at the top. The ISS was pretty bright and very easy to see; it's the streak in the middle.

The next picture was taken about 15 seconds later. The scene has changed!

First, you can see both the Shuttle (lower streak in line with the upper one) and the ISS. Second, the ISS has faded! See how it gets dimmer as it moves up; the line gets fainter near the top? It was passing into twilight, and so as seen from the station the Sun was "setting", and the station itself got dimmer. The Shuttle dimmed a few seconds later when it got that high off the horizon.

Again, go to Flickr to see these in higher resolution. They turned out pretty well! I may have to put the full-res versions someplace.

And remember: all I had here was a tripod, a digital camera, and some foreknowledge. That's really all it takes! So the next time something like this happens, you can get pictures too. It's not hard.