Bad Astronomy

A shadow across the Shuttle

On Saturday, the Orbiter Discovery was in space, circling hundreds of kilometers above our planet. Here’s an interesting picture of it… but wait a sec! If it was in orbit, what could cast a shadow across it?

Why, it’s the International Space Station itself! This shot is from Paolo Nespoli, an astronaut on the ISS. He snapped it as the Orbiter approached the station – docking was achieved on Saturday afternoon Eastern time. [UPDATE: As people have noted in the comments below, that’s the coastline of Peru under the Orbiter. Awesome.]

This is the last scheduled flight of Discovery. When she undocks from ISS next week, it will be for the final time. However, you can experience this flight at least by proxy through Nespoli, who has an astonishing series of pictures on Flickr that he uploads in near real-time from space (I like this one too).

Think about that: a guy living in space is taking hi-res digital pictures and uploading them to the web so everyone with internet access can see. You can keep your flying cars: we do live in the future.

[UPDATE: I have posted a seriously awesome followup picture of the ISS and Discovery taken by an amateur astronomer from the ground. Take a look!]

Image credit: NASA