shuttle spectacular from Colorado
Sun, 26 Dec 99 12:21:41

 Hi all - 
 Along with everyone else, I've been tracking the flight of
HST/STS-103 and being somewhat disappointed with the show - and
wondering how the brightness of the combined Shuttle and HST cold
be no brighter than the HST seen separately.  From Colorado (40
degrees North), the combined HST/shuttle has been running between
magnitudes 2 and 3 during 18 degree high passes in the south.
 Well, last night more than made up for the disappointing show to
date.  Apparently the HST was released over the Pacific Ocean as
it approached North Ameria, and right after release the Shuttle
did a water dump (I was listening to this via Shuttle audio re-
broadcast by a local amateur radio station).
 Using Quicksat predicitions, I noted that HST and the Shuttle
would be making a favorable 18 degree pass (due south) at 01:13
UT, or 6:13 pm local time.  So, I rounded up my wife, kids, and
dinner guests, and binoculars to go outside and look.  What we
saw was:
 Naked eye: the shuttle passed close to Fomalhaut at magnitude 2,
and appeared slightly fuzzy.
 7x50 binoculars: one of the neatest things I have ever seen
orbiting our planet: the Shuttle, still magnitude 2, followed by
about half a degree by the magnitude 5 HST.  From the Shuttle,
curving to the right (trailing the Shuttle) and down, was a 2-
degree long tail of ice crystals - quite reminiscent of Comet
Hale-Bopp, with the addition of the HST flying in formation. 
Meanwhile, we were all listening to the shuttle audio (space-
ground comms, mission control commentary, and the start of a live
CNN interview of the astronauts).  We tracked the show for about
5 minutes (these high HST rendezvous flights give plenty of time
to look).
 This was the third water I've seen, and with the addition of the
HST to the show, the most specatuclar.
 After everything disappeared into the Earth's shadow, we went
inside and had a feast.
 cheers, Rich Keen
 Coal Creek Canyon, Colorado, USA (39.877N, 105.391W, elev 2728m)

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