Shadow of Endeavour

The entire universe in blog form
June 2 2011 6:00 AM

Shadow of Endeavour

[Update: ARG! In the original post, I had put up a picture that did not have Endeavour docked to the Space Station. My mistake; I grabbed the wrong image from Dani. I have fixed it below. Sorry for any inconvenience.]

Endeavour is safely back on Earth. But while it was docked to the International Space Station, it cast a long, long shadow... which you can see in this astonishing picture:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Cool, isn't it? I know, it's small -- you can see it more clearly in the full-res picture -- but here's a close-up:

You can now see the ISS much better (along with a sunspot -- note that spot below the ISS is roughly the size of the Earth!); Endeavour is the long fuzzy bump on the top of the horizontal bar on the upper right going between the two sets of solar panels.

This picture was taken by Spanish photographer Dani Caxete, amazingly using just a 12.5 cm (5 inch) telescope. He has a gorgeous series of photos on Flickr which is well worth checking out, including this very cool one showing a series of video frames of the ISS crossing the Moon, and a very moody shot of the ISS and Sun with some clouds adding a sense of foreboding.

It's funny: I know the math. At the distance of the ISS over the ground (350 km), the human eye has just enough resolution to see the space station as more than a dot. Maybe a very slightly elongated dot. Through binoculars you should be able to detect the solar panels, and through a good telescope far more detail is apparent.

But still, to see it in a photo makes the math real. That's a spaceship and you can see it! That's pretty nifty.

And we still have one left. Atlantis is scheduled to launch on July 8. I certainly hope that there are more photogenic opportunities like this one, and there are more photographers out there like Dani willing to try to capture it.

Image credit: Dani Caxete, used with permission. My thanks to Manu Arregi for pointing Dani's work out to me!



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