[meteorite-list] Caltech Astronomer Saw Shuttle Apparently in Trouble Over California

From: Sterling K. Webb <kelly_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:18:24 2004
Message-ID: <3E3C829C.A8DD251E_at_bhil.com>


    This may not be the "smoking gun" that it appears to be. It is usual for the
hot ionized plasma that surrounds the shuttle to "detach" from the fireball
surrounding the craft and trail back before cooling enough to go dark. The only way
to distinguish between trailing plasma-balls and trailing debris is by the time
each takes to go dark. A material object, like a tile, will continue to generate
its own little "fireball," and hence is bright much longer.

Sterling K. Webb
Ron Baalke wrote:

> http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/DailyNews/shuttle_astronomer030201.html
> Astronomer Spots Trouble
> Astronomer Saw Shuttle Apparently in Trouble Over California
> By John Antczak
> The Associated Press
> February 1, 2003
> Los Angeles - Space shuttle Columbia appeared to begin trailing fiery
> debris as it passed over Eastern California early today, well before its
> destruction over Texas, according to a California Institute of Technology
> astronomer who witnessed its fiery transit.
> Anthony Beasley observed the shuttle's re-entry from outside his home in
> Bishop, Calif., near Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory, where he is
> project manager of the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave
> Astronomy.
> "As it tracked from west to east over the Owens Valley it was leaving a
> bright trail. As it actually moved over the valley there were a couple of
> flashes ... Then we could see there were things clearly trailing the
> orbiter subsequent to that," Beasley said.
> Shuttle Was Clearly Visible
> Beasley said he, his wife, Anne, and mother-in-law, Anne Finley, had gone
> outside in the early morning darkness to watch the re-entry from the small
> town 225 miles north of Los Angeles. He said the sky was clear and dark, and
> the shuttle was immediately visible when it cleared the Sierra Nevada peaks to
> the west of Bishop.
> He said he had never witnessed a shuttle re-entry before and is not an
> authority on shuttles, but he immediately thought Columbia was having problems.
> "In particular, there was one very clear event where there was a piece that
> backed off the orbiter ... It was giving off its own light, then it slowly
> fell from visibility," he said.
> Loss of Tiles?
> Beasley said he thought the shuttle might be losing some of the heat-resistant
> tiles that protect it during the fiery re-entry. He said he did not
> learn of the shuttle's destruction until he went to the observatory and
> compared notes with two news photographers who had arranged to photograph
> the re-entry through a telescope.
> Beasley said they compared notes and all agreed they had seen what he termed
> "the bright event, the third event."
> "The analogy, I think, is it looked like the shuttle dropped a flare," he said.
> He described the scene again: "Pretty soon after we started to see it track
> there were brief flashes of light. It would sort of flash a little bit and
> there was an indication of material trailing the orbiter. They would sort of
> disappear from view. ...That happened two or three times. One of these was
> very bright. It was a very clear thing. It separated itself from where the
> orbiter is. It sort of fell behind in the trail and it was burning itself. It
> was hot itself ... and then the orbiter continued heading toward Texas.
> __
Received on Sat 01 Feb 2003 09:29:49 PM PST

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