April 2, 2010

Eastern US Gets Rare Opportunity to See Space Shuttle

by Heather Falconer

Those folks living along the eastern United States will have a rare opportunity on Monday morning. Should the weather cooperate, folks from Florida to southern Maine will be able to see the space shuttle Discovery as it makes its way into orbit.

Appearing as a bright star on the low horizon (about the same luminosity as Sirius), those with an unobstructed view should see the shuttle moving quickly along a path parallel to the eastern seaboard. Those with binoculars or a spotting scope will be able to see the ‘V’ of the contrails in the sky, and maybe even the orange of the external fuel tank!

Making its second-to-last voyage, Discovery will be launched from Cape Canaveral at 6:21 am EST and begin its journey to the International Space Station. Click here for a viewing map. Since the shuttle program’s inception in 1981, there have only ever been five launches that took place at twilight, the rest occurring wither during darkness or the middle of the afternoon. Because of the time of day, this means that both the engine’s rockets and the light from the sun should make the shuttle clearly identifiable in the morning sky.

The table shown here on the left, courtesy of Space.com, provides directions on where to look to see the Discovery on its journey out of earth’s atmosphere.

NASA has scheduled only three more flights for shuttles after this launch. the shuttle program officially comes to a close at the end of this year, making way for the new space rogram that will focus on designing state-of-the-art vehicles for taking Americans into space.

For some help on spotting spaceships from earth, visit here. If you manage to see the shuttle — or get photos — please let us know!

(Discovery crew image courtesy of NASA)  

Heather Falconer

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Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.