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We saw (and heard) the space shuttle go by

We saw the space shuttle Discovery wiz by last night, right after it was launched from Florida. It was very cool.

I had read that we might be able to see it from here in New York, so as soon as it launched we bundled up and headed out into the freezing cold with Rusty in tow (actually he had us in tow, as is always the case). We walked up the hill a bit to get away from the street lights and to find a place where we could get a better view the southeast horizon. It was cold with no clouds but not completely clear, with only a few of the brightest stars dimly visible through an indefinite haze.

Nancy saw it first, as a blink through the trees. It was a bright white light, brighter than any star, pulsing slowly with a flashing red light. My initial reaction was that it might be an airplane, but as it rose higher, moving fast from southeast to northeast, you knew it couldn't be a plane based on the speed, which was more like that of a satellite.

After it had passed, which took maybe a minute at most, we went in to warm up. But it turns out it wasn't over yet. About 15 minutes later (I checked the time) we heard a loud, rumbling roar outside, slowly growing louder. I went out to the front porch to see if I could determine a direction to the sound, but it was all around us, kind of how the sound of a noisy freight train going through a small town at night is all around you (but this was louder than the trains here). The rumble was more like when our furnace kicks in, only louder and spread out. Actually, it was just like the rumble of the space shuttle engines which we had heard on NASA's video feed when we'd watched the launch. So we actually heard the shuttle go by as well!

Scientist that I am, I had to do a quick cross check. Sound travels at about a mile every 5 seconds, as everybody knows from thunder and lightning. It was 15 minutes after we'd seen the shuttle wiz by, which is 900 seconds. So the distance to the sound source would be around 180 miles. And that is just about right, given what I'd seen on a map for the expected trajectory.

So not only did we see the shuttle, but we heard it go by as well. Very cool.


© Copyright 2006 by Eric Myers


Last modified: 10 December 2006 Copyright © 2006 by Spy Hill Research http://www.spy-hill.net /myers/notes/Discovery.html