Observation Log 9/9/09: ISS/Discovery overflight, with a frightening surprise

Discovery passed almost directly overhead tonight, with the ISS following 27 seconds later. Thankfully Jan was there to share it, and to witness something we’ve never seen before or probably will see again.

Just as Discovery passed straight overhead, a plume of white, faintly colorful reflections appeared right around it, and expanded for about ten seconds, dimming as it grew with the shuttle still in the middle. It was still faintly visible when it was about 1/2° across, or about the apparent size of the full moon. My immediate thought was something had gone terribly wrong. After a moment I realized we’d probably seen the Orbital Maneuvering System fire a burst of flames, during operation or perhaps testing.

I had a video camera set up to try and catch some light trails, but unfortunately it wasn’t pointed straight up. Even so, that was just stunning.

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3 Comments on “Observation Log 9/9/09: ISS/Discovery overflight, with a frightening surprise”

  1. Rob Dale Says:

    It wasn’t a jet firing – it was waste water. Check the Sightings thread on NSF.

    • Steve Says:

      Thanks Rob. I’ll definitely try to find that site. The reflective appearance made me wonder if was waste, but I didn’t think it could expand to .5 degrees in about 10 seconds. Again, many thanks for a chance to learn!


  2. Interesting information for the Discovery flyover on 9/9


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