STS entry seen in daylight

Robert Reeves (
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 20:19:20 -0600

Well... that was interesting!  My first daylight STS reentry.

I got home from work about 5:30 pm CST and turned on NASA TV
to see if the landing went well.  I found to my surprize STS was over
the Pacific just reentering.  At the same time I got a phone call from
my friend and fellow satellite observer Ron Dawes.  He used to live
here in Texas, but is now with Lockheed in Geogia.  He said the
reentry plot would pass a bit north of me.  I looked around the corner
at the TV and the NASA channel had the reentry plot on the screen.
I saw STS wound pass just north of Austin within about 15 minutes.
I figured that would be about 5 minutes after sundown local time, but
I have not confirmed the true local sunset time or the time of STS
passage.  Fortunately, the total cloud cover had blown off to the south
a few hours earlier.  My wife and I watched NASA TV until the track
crossed the Texas border, then we went into the front yard.  About 90
seconds later I picked up STS about 15 degrees above the horizon at
about 330 azimuth.  It was about as bright as Venus and going like ****
toward the east.  It culminated about 20 degrees and was so easily visible
that my non-astronomer wife had no trouble seeing it.  I watched in
binoculars as it went down in the NE.  The sky was darker there, away
from the sunset, and at about azimuth 30 I could begin to detect a faint
ion trail following the glowing orbiter.  It was very faint, but my wife
commented that with the naked eye she could also see a streak behind
the orbiter.  All this happened between 5 and 10 minutes after local
sundown.  When the orbiter dropped below the trees, we went back inside
and NASA TV was showing an image of the orbiter as seen from JSC in
Houston.  The orbiter was at 190,000 feet and doing about 10,000 mph
then.  It had travelled from Austin/San Antonio to Houston in the time it
us to enter the living roon from the front walkway.  Amazing!

Robert Reeves  
520 Rittiman Rd.
San Antonio, TX          210-828-9036
78209   U.S.A.            29.484N  98.440W  200 meters

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