Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Shuttle Plume Shadow Points to the Moon
Posted on 11/26/2011 9:32:19 PM PST by SunkenCiv
Explanation: Why would the shadow of a space shuttle launch plume point toward the Moon? In early 2001 during a launch of Atlantis, the Sun, Earth, Moon, and rocket were all properly aligned for this photogenic coincidence. First, for the space shuttle's plume to cast a long shadow, the time of day must be either near sunrise or sunset. Only then will the shadow be its longest and extend all the way to the horizon. Finally, during a Full Moon, the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the sky. Just after sunset, for example, the Sun is slightly below the horizon, and, in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above the horizon. Therefore, as Atlantis blasted off, just after sunset, its shadow projected away from the Sun toward the opposite horizon, where the Full Moon just happened to be.
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[Credit: Pat McCracken, NASA ]
Oh man, more homework! Now I have to look up the lunar ephemeris for the launch date ... figure out the geometry ... but hmmm. I notice that the plume shadow would be a plane, and the intersection with the moon has to do with the angle of the plume and the POV of the photograph, so hmmm. As Lagrange said, “I must think further on this.”
Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a shuttle plume shadow cast on the sky. I’ve seen one cast on the ground (and it wasn’t a straight line either), but not on the sky. Something new every day.
Seems a bit unusual to me.
One of my all-time favorite movies!
It moves a bit `slow’ now (and has for awhile), but it remains a fav.
The music is unforgettable.
Me too (the music). While the main theme (”Also Sprach Zarasthrusa” with its pounding timpanis) is cool, my favorite was “The Blue Danube Waltz” keeping accompaniment while the shuttle docked with the space station.
I was away for the week...in Daytona. Back in the Day, one could watch a Shuttle Launch from that area.
Lucky photographer was in the right place at the right time.
You can see it squares pretty well with the photo, and it does involve a significant coincidence in the exact position of the moon, which makes it lie in the plane of the shadow.
Nice work, Doctor. Thanks.
Last Christmas 5(?) brass players performed at a church in my community.
Guess what they opened their concert with?
Yep - ‘Also Sprach Zarasthrusa!’
They stationed themselves all around, including the balcony. What a sound!
My daughter, who attended an earlier show, told me to get there on time, because she knew I would not want to miss the opening number.
But she held back telling me what it was!
I think the name of the group is ‘Tim Zimmerman and The King’s Brass.’ They gave a number of concerts, and we saw it Christmas Eve, I believe.
The members are from all around the US.
It’s possible this church has invited them back this year - don’t know for sure.
Heartily recommend seeing them if they’re in your neighborhood!