Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from New York City

If everything goes well -- a big IF -- on the late afternoon of
December 6th those of us who live in the New York area will have the
chance to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis lift off on its last mission
to the International Space Station.

is scheduled to lift off at 4:31. Fortunately for us, December 6 is
when the sun sets the earliest here in New York City, at 4:27 PM. The
shuttle will become visible from New York at around 4:42PM, just as the
sky is getting dark. If weather conditions are right we'll see a bright
starlike object -- glowing both from reflected sunlight AND the exhaust
from its rocket engines -- zoom across the deepening twilight sky from
the southwest. The shuttle will arc across the southern sky and then
head southeast, reaching an altitude of about 8 degrees (about two
extended fists) above the horizon. If all goes well we might actually
see the shuttle's engines cut off! The whole thing takes about 90
seconds from first visibility to last.

If people are interested
I'd like to get a group together to see this. We'll need a place with a
great panoramic southern view. I'm thinking maybe the beach/boardwalk
at Coney Island, or Columbia University's Rutherford Observatory (if we
can convince them to open it), or even the middle of the Brooklyn or
George Washington Bridge!

There are dozens of things that can
prevent us from seeing the shuttle fly past New York. The launch might
be postponed -- as much as a day will screw things up for us. The
launch can be aborted that day, anywhere up to 30 seconds before
ignition. The sky could be overcast. The sky could be perfectly clear
except for a cloudbank over the southern horizon. All these drawbacks
are risks we have to take -- having seen the shuttle fly past New York
before, I'd say the view is worth it.

Let me know if you are interested!

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