Shuttle water dump

Willie Koorts (
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 01:14:59 +0200 (GMT+0200)

Hi Folks

Since I have unsubscribed from all lists almost 3 months ago when I went 
away for a while, I have resisted rejoining since it takes up such a lot 
of one's time.  After what I saw tonight, I just have to share this with 
the satellite stacking community and finally gave in and re-joined.

Anyway, I am at our observatory site for this week and tonight is a
perfect night with sub-arc-second seeing, no cloud from horizon to horizon
and no Moon either.  After spending half an hour outside, becoming
perfectly dark adapted, chatting away while waiting for the STS88/ISS
pass, we were treated with the most spectacular site I ever seen.  After
seeing a 2 degree water dump from the same site and similar conditions
before, I thought I saw it all! 

I was actually very pleasantly surprised to see a little line instead of a
pinpoint of light when the shuttle first appeared near the horizon.  When 
this line just grew and grew as it approached, surprised me even more.  
When I finally realised I should at least measure its length, I could not 
believe that, still about a quarter of it was sticking out past my fully
outstreached hand at arm's length, making it about 25 degrees long at 

What was also very interesting, was how straight it was.  Just at the 
very end, before going into shadow, did the leading end started showing a 
slight curve.

Also, the satellite was not at the very end of the 'line' like I saw it 
before, but about a fifth in from the trailing end?

What was particularly interesting was to see this go into shadow - it
looked just like when one of the Star-wars characters switch off his
laser-sword!  It shrunk from the one end to disappear in a few seconds - 
the satellite took much longer to fade out completely.  This might be an 
indication how faint it actually was and how well dark adapted we were.

This must surely be a sight of a lifetime, the only thing coming close 
was the failed tether launch from the shuttle a few years ago!

Whish you were here!

Best regards
                        Willie Koorts   

       Cape Town,  Observatory   33d 56' 03"S   18d 28' 36"E   GMT + 2h
       Wellington, South Africa  33d 38' 56"S   19d 00' 52"E   GMT + 2h

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