Space Shuttle seen in Pennsylvania 7 to 9 minutes after launch with a plume of sparks behind it

From: Terry Pundiak (
Date: Sat Dec 09 2006 - 22:36:52 EST

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    Not that this is important , but I got to watch the Space Shuttle as  
    it scooted up the East Coast appearing much faster than when it is in  
    orbit - seen in Easton, PA (latitude 40 degrees) about  7 or 8   
    minutes after launch - moving at the break-neck speed of some old  
    fashion racing plane --- big plume of sparks -- like the mental image  
    most lay people think that a comet would assume...  a real  
    astronomical treat.  Some clouds were in its path and the engine  
    plume went on and off many times - but I suspect that was the  
    variable thickness of the clouds.  And it was not visible by the time  
    it got to due East of me.   In the thick clouds, I think the engine  
    burn-out was scheduled at about that time anyway.    All along it  
    appeared to be about 10 to 15 degrees above the horizon.
    The shuttle was not really illuminated by the Sun - just the bright  
    plume pouring out behind it like a stubby short but dynamic comet  
    tail -- obvious to the naked eye and more dramatic through  
    binoculars.    Magnitude - hard to estimate - it was much larger than  
    a planet maybe a tenth of the size of the Moon - bronze like color  
    that was not bright as a planet - the color was like of the star  
    Betelgeuse.  Overall size and brightness made it the most dramatic  
    object in the sky at that moment.
    Really impressive...
    Terry Pundiak,
    Easton, PA
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