APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Comments and questions about the APOD on the main view screen.

APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby APOD Robot » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:05 am

Image Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit

Explanation: What's that strange bright streak? It is the last image ever of a space shuttle from orbit. A week and a half ago, after decoupling from the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle Atlantis fired its rockets for the last time, lost its orbital speed, and plummeted back to Earth. Within the next hour, however, the sophisticated space machine dropped its landing gear and did what used to be unprecedented -- landed like an airplane on a runway. Although the future of human space flight from the USA will enter a temporary lull, many robotic spacecraft continue to explore our Solar System and peer into our universe, including Cassini, Chandra, Chang'e 2, Dawn, Fermi, Hubble, Kepler, LRO, Mars Express, Messenger, MRO, New Horizons, Opportunity, Planck, Rosetta, SDO, SOHO, Spitzer, STEREO, Swift, Venus-Express, and WISE.

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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby islader2 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:19 am

We humans ought to name space probes after astronomers who have contributed in a secondary way to exploration of the cosmos, Thanx. :D :o
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby bystander » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:42 am

You mean like Cassini, Chandra, Fermi, Herschel, Hubble, Kepler, Planck, Spitzer, XMM-Newton, etc?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby Wolf Kotenberg » Mon Aug 01, 2011 5:45 am

Is this the first ever image of a Shuttle returning, from above ?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby revloren » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:40 am

Interesting picture. I guess that the orbiter was moving from bottom to top, concluding with the bright spot at top. But why the curve? Did the shuttle really manuver to such an extent dring re-entry? Was this motion for re-entry angulation/postion management or just manuvering toward the landing target?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby jrich » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:27 am

You forgot Herschel!
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby bacon55 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:13 am

And Voyager 1 and 2.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby Indigo_Sunrise » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:43 am

revloren wrote:Interesting picture. I guess that the orbiter was moving from bottom to top, concluding with the bright spot at top. But why the curve? Did the shuttle really manuver to such an extent dring re-entry? Was this motion for re-entry angulation/postion management or just manuvering toward the landing target?


I'm going to hazard a guess and say that the curve is maybe somewhat exaggerated, because of the perspective....
Hopefully some of the solons will be along to correct me and/or expand upon this! :wink:

GREAT IMAGE (and links!)


8-)
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby Rusty Brown in Canada » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:43 am

My bet is that it is moving top to bottom: first the bright flare of the rocket engines briefly firing [with the nose pointed away from the camera] followed by the curving descent toward the camera. JMHO.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby nebosite » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:09 pm

Assuming that is California in the picture, the motion would have to be bottom to top. It's puzzling to me how the crew of the space station could capture this picture, because the shuttle and station start out with essentially the same orbit and then the shuttle slows down during reentry. Shouldn't the space station move out ahead of the shuttle? Maybe their orbits diverge a lot between the time of undocking and the time the shuttle enters the atmosphere?

Also, how long is this exposure? My guess is about 1 second due to the minimal streaking of stars and earth objects. That would mean the reentry trail glows for a significant amount of time. Cool!
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby neufer » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:24 pm

APOD Robot wrote:Image Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit

Explanation: What's that strange bright streak? ...

A week and a half ago, after decoupling from the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle Atlantis fired its rockets for the last time, lost its orbital speed, and plummeted back to Earth.
-------------------------------------------------
    plummet: plunge, fall, drop, crash, tumble, swoop, stoop, nose-dive, descend rapidly

      "Share prices have plummeted."
      "The car plummeted off a cliff."
    -------------------------------------------------
    John Milton » On Time

    Fly, envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
    Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
    Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace;
    And glut thyself with what thy womb devours,
    Which is no more than what is false and vain,
    And merely mortal dross;
    So little is our loss,
    So little is thy gain.

    -------------------------------------------------
    Charles Dickens » Great Expectations » Chapter 53

    Of a sudden, he stopped, took the cork out of his bottle, and tossed it away. Light as it was, I heard it fall like a plummet.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Edgar Rice Burroughs » The Return of Tarzan » Chapter 25

    [Tarzan] told [Jane] then of his life since he had returned to the jungle--of how he had dropped like a plummet from a civilized Parisian to a savage Waziri warrior, and from there back to the brute that he had been raised.
-------------------------------------------------
Art Neuendorffer
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby nealmcb » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:34 pm

More images in the sequence are linked to from here by Ben: http://www.slackerastronomy.org/wordpre ... oing-home/

Based on the cloud patterns in view, it seems (and makes sense) that the station is catching up to the shuttle as the latter is slowing down in the atmosphere. Also notice the stars rising, and the beginnings of sunrise at the end, with the station getting a bit brighter.
Here are the low-res images, put into chronological order. The file names seem to have a date component (and I've pulled out the last 3 digits):

Image 177 Image 188 Image 199 Image 200 Image 217 Image 218 Image 221
Last edited by nealmcb on Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby pinguwin » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:44 pm

I got the impression that during reentry, it crossed oceans and continents, but this entry looks very vertical. Is this just a trick of perspective? How many horizontal miles are covered?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby zbvhs » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:02 pm

In those views, the shuttle was following the Earth's curvature. It was also losing altitude quite rapidly, so the perspective would be somewhat exaggerated. The shuttles also made s-turns from side to side to help kill off energy during re-entry. The Orbiters had substantial maneuverability. From an orbital track over Texas, they had the capability to reach California or Florida. A large re-entry footprint is a nice capability to have in an emergency situation. Soyuz re-entries have been photographed from Space Station but I believe this is the first time a shuttle has been caught during re-entry.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby islader2 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:28 pm

bystander==Thanks for the lesson on name recognition from Astronomy 101. Your list of names {IMHO} includes first line-contributors. There are and have been many men and women who have toiled mightly in our sphere of interest just for the love of the subject. That, to me, is honorable. bystander==great posts. I have enthused over many of them==anf expect more. Thanx. :D :D
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby bystander » Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:59 pm

No problems, I just found it odd that you made the comment you did (and probably took it wrong) immediately after the APOD post listing so many of the space observatories that were named after the contributors to our understanding of the cosmos. I agree that it is a fitting tribute to name these robotic explorers after those who made such an impact on the exploration of the universe.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby tech-coyote » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:36 pm

I woke up--unplanned--about an hour before re-entry happened and watched it. I was able to watch it live and it's moving from left to right in the image posted.

But what I don't entirely understand is the secondary arc parallel to but well-separated from where I think the top of the atmosphere is--looks like a dark rainbow. Anyone know what that is?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby tech-coyote » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:37 pm

I mis-wrote: it's moving from right to left. Sorry about that. (Post-lunch blah)
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby ZenGrouch » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:26 pm

What are the background lights on Earth, city lights or lightning strikes?

If they're city lights, any idea of which cities they are?
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby saturn2 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:59 pm

Space Shuttle Atlantis in the final mission.
The atmosphere has different colors.
It says goodbye Atlantis.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby jkbonner » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:28 am

A, "temporary lull" in manned space flight is an understatement. How about surrendered manned space flight. I'm all for the robots but, Americans ought to to be in space and we must be willing to accept the cost. If we're unable to educate our population to appreciate that reality then we don't deserve the history we've inherited.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby Chris Peterson » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:04 am

jkbonner wrote: I'm all for the robots but, Americans ought to to be in space and we must be willing to accept the cost.

Why?

BTW, Americans are still in space with the retirement of the Shuttles.
Chris

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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby NoelC » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:42 am

No one has asked the obvious question... Why is there a smoke trail? Is a coating on the tiles burning off? I thought by the fact that these spacecraft are (er, were) reusable that they didn't burn anything off.

Or is it just ionized atmosphere?

By the way, for those asking why the shuttle is ahead of the ISS, this is because that after dropping to a lower orbit, it doesn't have nearly as far to go to circle the Earth and so it gets ahead, even though it's going a little slower. It seems counterintuitive, yes. Think of it as a Nascar driver passing on the inside lane.

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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby Chris Peterson » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:55 am

NoelC wrote:No one has asked the obvious question... Why is there a smoke trail? Is a coating on the tiles burning off? I thought by the fact that these spacecraft are (er, were) reusable that they didn't burn anything off.

Or is it just ionized atmosphere?

Exactly. It's a plasma trail, not a smoke trail.
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Re: APOD: Shuttle Reentry Streak from Orbit (2011 Aug 01)

Postby PaulB » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:06 am

I think they got the caption wrong on this one... I think this is a launch image. The shuttle has just finished its ballistic climb (hence the smoke trail) and is still on main engine burn.

I don't see how this couple possibly be a re-entry image. This is not a long exposure as we see no star streaks or blur.

Great show, but not of re-entry!

Paul
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