Saturday, February 20, 2010

A magnificent view of the Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-130 and the ISS in tandem!



click image to enlarge

The weather predictions for this morning suggested a possibility of clear sky - and hence a possibility to see a morning twilight pass of the duo Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-130 and the International Space Station, which decoupled a few hours earlier.

I observed from the appartment of my girlfriend this time, who lives at the 2nd floor of the same building as me. This allowed a wide vista over the rooftops towards the west and southwest. The pass happened around 6:49 am local time (5:49 UTC on the 20th), the sun was at an altitude of -10 degrees, and hence twilight coloured the sky already. I could see Saturn, Spica and a couple of other stars, low in the southwest. The pass would reach a maximum altitude of 20 degrees.

The pair was easy to see as they majestically sailed over the rooftops in the twilight sky, rising over the rooftops below Saturn and then passing Spica. They were very close, 1.7 degrees apart around 5:49:30 UTC (measured from the photograph above), passing the same point about 3.7 seconds apart. The Shuttle, at around magnitude 0 to +1 the fainter of the two, was slightly ahead of, and a tiny bit lower in declination than, the ISS, which attained about magnitude -1 to -2. A magnificent view!

Above is one of three pictures I took. They suffered a bit from vibrations, as I had only limited space to put up the tripod in the window-sill of my GF's bedroom, and the window-sill apparently did transfer some vibrations to the tripod & camera. The picture shown above shows the duo close to Spica (alpha Virgo) and is the image with the least "wobbly" trails. Movement of both objects is from right to left in the picture.

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