Re: STS-86 Launch Visible (VISIBILITY INFO!!!)
Wed, 24 Sep 1997 18:28:40 -0400 (EDT)

Not sure who originally created this, but I pulled it off of a message board
and I am really looking forward to viewing the launch if the weather will
only hold up Thursday night!!! ....  THIS SHOULD BE VERY HELPFUL TO ANY



If you have ever yearned to see a Space Shuttle launch, but have never been
able to make it down to Florida, those in the Eastern U.S. will get a great
opportunity -- if weather conditions permit -- on Thursday evening, September
25th.  The upcoming shuttle flight -- STS-86 -- is the seventh to rendezvous
and dock with the Russian Mir Space Station and will be visible along much of
the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

The Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) is expected to leave Pad 39A at Florida's
Kennedy Space Center at 10:34 p.m. EDT.  In order to meet-up with Mir, the
Shuttle will be launched into a special orbit that is inclined 51.6 degrees
to the equator. Unusually, after liftoff, the Shuttle heads out over the
Atlantic straight east from Florida, but the September 25th launch --
specially configured to match Mir's orbit -- will bring the Shuttle's path
nearly parallel to the U.S. East Coast.

The Shuttle will be visible by virtue of the light emanating from its three
main engines.  It should appear as a very bright, pulsating, fast-moving
star, shining with a yellowish-orange glow.  The brightness should be at
least equal to the planet Jupiter.  Observers who train binoculars on the
Shuttle should be able to see it look like a tiny V-shaped contrail.

Along the Southeast U.S. coastline, anywhere north of Cape Canaveral, it is
suggested that you look low toward the south-southeast sky within 2 to 4
minutes after the launch (to the south of the Cape, look low toward the
north-northeast).  In the mid-Atlantic region, look toward the
south-southeast about 4 to 7 minutes after launch, while in the northeast
U.S., look low toward the south-southeast about 7 to 8 minutes after launch.

Atlantis will seem to "flicker," then abruptly wink-out 8 1/2 minutes after
launch as the main engines shut-down and the huge, orange, external tank is
jettisoned over the Atlantic at a point 415 miles southeast of New York City.
 At that moment, Atlantis will be at an altitude of 375,000 feet (71 statute
miles) and should be visible for a radius of 700 statute miles from the point
of main engine cutoff (MECO).  Of course. . . before hoping to see the
Shuttle streak across your local sky, you should make sure it has left the
launch pad!  Watch the launch on CNN, or listen to a radio station that is
covering it live.  Then head outside and start looking skyward.

                        Time of closest
Location                Approach              Max.Altitude
                              (T + Min.)                  (Deg.)

Savannah, GA           T + 3.5                    10.2
Spartanburg, SC       T + 4.5                      4.4
Myrtle Beach, SC      T + 5.0                    13.8
Wilmington, NC        T + 5.5                    15.3
Greensboro, NC         T + 6.0                      6.6
Cape Hatteras, NC    T + 6.5                     22.1
Roanoke, VA             T + 6.5                       5.0
Norfolk, VA              T + 7.0                     11.9
Hagerstown, MD        T + 7.5                      5.0
Washington, DC         T + 7.5                      6.8
Philadelphia, PA       T + 8.0                      7.8
Atlantic City, NJ       T + 8.0                    10.0
New York City            T + 8.5                     8.0
Boston, MA                 T + 8.5                     7.8
Portland, ME               T + 8.5                     5.5