Saturday, February 19, 2005

Rockets and Satellites In Your Backyard

As a boy I dreamed of one day being able to look up and see rocket ships flying overhead. That dream has come true, and now you too can see the International Space Station (ISS), NASA Space Shuttle missions and other space objects from your own backyard, no telescope or binoculars needed.-- D.H.

Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor -- STS-88The Space Shuttle Endeavor rockets past the Virginia coastline on its way to Earth orbit on shuttle mission STS-88 in a night launch from Cape Canaveral. To the eye Endeavor appeared as a bright orange star moving rapidly from the South to the East, staying low to the horizon. Low-power binoculars easily revealed a fan-shaped orange exhaust plume.

This picture was taken at 3:42 A.M. on December 4, 1998, seven minutes after liftoff from Florida. It is an 8-second exposure at about f4.5 and 110 mm or so (zoom). I had a very full moon at my back which is illuminating the trees, pole, and insulators.

To see Earth-orbiting satellites flying over your own backyard go to the free web site Heavens Above. Start with the ISS which is usually very bright and easy to see, and the next night that it passes your way show it to your family, friends and neighbors. They'll think you are some sort of rocket scientist and will thank you for pulling them away from the TV to enjoy our fascinating universe.

-- Dalton Hammond

More of my Backyard Astronomy

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