Shuttle, ET, ISS and Iridium Flare

From: Gerhard HOLTKAMP (
Date: Sat May 31 2008 - 22:12:04 UTC

The short version of my report is WOW!

Here the details: After watching the liftoff of STS-124 on TV I had barely 
time to rush to the window to take a picture of a mag -6 flare by Iridium 76 
about halfway between Saturn and Mars at 21:12:45 UTC, 31-MAY-08, while at 
the same time the ISS was just ascending the sky only 6 degrees away from the 

Ten minutes later I could pick up the shuttle and the ET just a few degrees 
above the horizon and follow them for over a minute until shadow ingress. The  
shuttle was about mag -3 with the distinctly red External Tank about half a 
degree below (still have to check my pictures to be sure for the distance) 
showing up at about mag 0 - maybe a little brighter. I timed the passage of 
the two next to Saturn at 21:24:00 UTC, 31-MAY-08, which was 5 seconds later 
than calculated with the NASA pre-planned elements. I also had the impression 
that the shuttle was passing a little higher above Saturn than calculated. 
Maybe they were inserted a little to high. Looking through a pair of 
binoculars there were a few small white spots trailing the shuttle (there 
were just a little lower and behind but closer than the ET). These looked 
like something solid - pieces of ice?. 

This was all the more remarkable as for the better part of the day we had 
muggy overcast weather with thunderstorms and the clearing in the sky came 
only about half an hour before liftoff. Well, you have to be lucky once in a 

Darmstadt, Germany
49.8822 N, 8.6558 E

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