Friday, February 08, 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-122, Progress-M62 flaring, and the ISS

After a sunny day, but with cirrus in the sky, the evening of February 8 was clear. This was the only evening that I had a chance to observe the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-122 before it docks to the International Space Station. The sequence was for ISS to make a near-zenith pass in twilight around 18:55 local time, followed by Progress-M62 on a similar trajectory ten minutes later, and finally the Space Shuttle STS-122 a quarter of an hour after that, entering shadow just below the zenith.

First the ISS passed, reaching magnitude -3 in the zenith:

(click images to enlarge)

Next the Progress-M62 spacecraft leaving ISS filled with garbage made a pass. It spectacularly flared to mag. -2 in Andromeda (in the image below, M31 the Andromeda galaxy is just to the right of the trail), while the camera was open. The result is this very nice image:

(click image to enlarge)

In this second image, it is back to it's normal brightness of mag. +1 again:

(click image to enlarge)

15 minutes later the Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-122 on its way to the ISS passed, reaching mag. -1 before going into eclips just below the zenith:

(click images to enlarge)

A fine evening altogether! And although I have seen Space Shuttles pass before, this is the first time I catched one on photograph. The spectacular flare of Progress-M62 really made the evening though.

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