STS-87, Iridiums

Ed Cannon (
Fri, 05 Dec 1997 23:33:48 -0600

With our STS-87 re-entry predicted for 7 degrees above the south 
horizon, I went to Mt. Bonnell, a "mountain" (236 meters) with a 
great southern view.  Sue arrived there also a few minutes later.  
There were also about a dozen other people neither of us knew.  
The Shuttle appeared low in the WSW, followed by the plasma trail, 
and we were able to watch it for ... about 5 seconds before it 
disappeared behind a layer of clouds and never reappeared.  (Of 
course the little remnant of the plasma trail that was visible 
remained longer.)  Oh, well, maybe better luck next time.  (An 
interesting thing is that someone in my department at work was 
able to see it pretty much unobscured, except for tree limbs and 
houses, for a minute or two, apparently below the cloud layer 
that obscured it for those of us at a higher altitude and a few 
kilometers southeast of his location.)

My mom saw STS-87 over San Antonio Wednesday morning through a 
large break in the clouds.  She had gone outside to pick up the
newspaper -- but at the correct time for STS-87, just in case.  
I, on the other hand, watched for it from Austin in vain -- no 
lucky breaks in the clouds for me.  But it did make a fine 
visible pass over here Thursday morning, and there was a very 
good HST pass a few minutes later.  Also observed Lacrosse 3 
pretty much as predicted.  And a few others.  Plus a great 
Iridium flare.

We had whopper Iridium flares two mornings in a row.  Friday's 
(about a half-hour after the Shuttle re-entry) was partially 
obscured by clouds.  Thursday's, at only 11 degrees above the 
horizon, was a very good one!  It would be nice to have one in
the evening one of these days....

Ed Cannon
Austin, Texas, USA -- 30.31N, 97.73W, 150m -- more or less