shuttle re-entry

Walter Nissen (dk058@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Thu, 25 Jan 1996 17:49:46 -0500

> From: (Joe A. Dellinger) 
> Subject: shuttle 
>         My parents watched the shuttle re-enter from Dallas. They passed along 
> a question to me that I couldn't answer: why does it leave a glowing trail? 
> What is causing the glow? 
I am still not a physicist, but I would suppose thermal blackbody 
emission.  Something got hot.  From friction, I suppose.  Air?  Dust? 
Flakes off the tiles?  Maybe dust combustion? 
>         I wonder why predictions of when to go out and look didn't get more 
> press. In Dallas there was almost no information. My relatives didn't know 
> anyone else who went outside to look. 
There are a dozen or more reports of spectacular sightings of the re-entry 
from Hawaii to Florida in, including a few from the 
Dallas area.  I am also puzzled by NASA's failure to publicize this.  I've 
been told the reason is federal law.  NASA cannot self-promote.  But what 
it can do is respond enthusiastically to inquiries.  It is up to the media 
and space/astronomical societies to make their info needs clear.  Most 
media don't have even the educational background to recognize such an 
opportunity for what it is (outside of journalism and law, it's not clear 
what these people study, if anything; if you had a perverse sense of 
humor, you would find it wildly amusing to hear the likes of Phil Chien 
and the reporters from Av Leak and Science Mag ask questions at NASA press 
conferences interspersed among the mostly toy questions from the mainstream 
metro dailies and networks).  I wish I knew the full answer to your 
wonder, because knowing it might help convince the Flight Dynamics Office 
at Johnson Space Center to do a better job of distributing anticipated 
TLEs a few days in advance so people all over the world could see the 
space program in action (for American taxpayers, THEIR space program). 
NASA responds to legitimate inquiries from people all over the world. 
Walter Nissen  
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood 
and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the
endless immensity of the sea."  -- Antoine de Saint Exupery