As I wrote earlier today, the Space Shuttle Atlantis separated from the space station Tuesday morning. I happened to stumble upon the fact that they would be close together for a while, and decided to check my local view. They would pass almost directly overhead at 10:00 p.m. local time! Added bonus: they would be pretty bright, so I could easily get good pictures of them.
So I did.
(Click on the images for bigger ones hosted on Flickr.)
The image above is of the two as they rose through the trees north of my house. The Shuttle is the fainter streak on the left, and the ISS is brighter (it’s pretty big now) on the right. Note that they are on slightly different tracks: since Atlantis undocked, it was on a slightly different orbital path. The blotches in the sky aren’t clouds, they’re from crud inside my camera. I need to get it cleaned.
This one is cool: as they passed overhead, they went past the Big Dipper; you can see the handle stars on the left (including Mizar and Alcor, a close double star).
Each picture is a 13 second exposure. During that time, each of those spacecraft moved about 60 miles, or 100 kilometers or so. There are seven people on board Atlantis, and three on the ISS. We put people in space, and you can see it from the ground. No telescope, no binoculars, just you, your eyes, and a little foresight to know when and where to look.
And while they’re separating more and more every hour, you should really check and see if you can see them from your location. It’s worth it.