Launch Photography through a Telescope?

Do you remember Colin Ake? He is a fellow astronomer and STS-120 launch viewer. And he did a superb job at taking launch pictures:

Even though I did not notice that when I was at the causeway, Colin must have been quite close to my own location. So how come he could take such an up-close picture? Did he use professional camera equipment? Not at all. Being an astronomer, Colin had a Celestron C8 telescope right at hand:

Taking photographs through a scope is challenging. Taking photographs through a hand-held scope is outstanding! I am deeply impressed by the quality of Colin’s pictures.

I got some comments from Colin when I mentioned him in my “up-close picture taking” post. We exchanged a few comments and I was pleased that Colin offered me to show his pictures. I have taken a few from his site and moved them to my own server because I always like to make sure the images I reference will exist as long as my post (being an old web hack, I’ve had to many problems with changing URLs). Unfortunately, it took me some time to do it – much more than I anticipated. I hope Colin doesn’t mind…

If you would like to have a look at the full set, please visit Colin’s picture gallery. I highly recommend that!

Below, I have reproduced some of the shots that I like most:

STS-120 launch animation

STS-120 launch as seen from NASA causeway (animation from still pictures)Finally I have a little time to play with my pictures. As a starter, I did an animation of Discovery’s STS-120 launch. You can also view a hi-res version. The animation was created from still images I took with my Canon EOS 400D (called “Digital Rebel” in the USA, if I recall correctly). I was at the NASA Causeway viewing site.

The camera was on a tripod, with pre-set exposure and focus and connected to a wire shutter. I kept the shutter pressed until the space shuttle went out of its view. I did not make any attempt to track the shuttle as I was primarily concentrated with viewing, not photography. This setting brought me about three pictures per second. I then used the computer to size them down and a gif animator to do a real animation out of it.

Of course, I could also have taken a video camera, but then I had to concentrate much more on creating the movie. Also, I did not have a sufficiently well video camera, so this was not option at all ;) I also like the shots very much – plus I plan to do a real high res version some time later, which the 8MP pictures clearly enable me to do.

For now, I hope you enjoy this magnificent space launch!

Armando’s STS-120 launch experience report

Armando Perdomo and Rainer Gerhards at Kennedy Space CenterDo you remember Armando Perdomo? He is a frequent reader and commenter on this blog. I also had the joy of meeting him in Kennedy Space Center the day before launch. Armando is a great guy and I enjoy to be able to call him now a friend!

Armando is also a great photographer and, as it seems, story teller. He was even quicker than me in getting his STS-120 launch experience online. I highly recommend his blog to everyone. You can read it here:

I am sure you will enjoy his report.

I would also like to start a “blog parade” (or how is this called in English?;)) with blogs (and other sites) that publish STS-120 launch viewing experiences.
If you have one, please drop me a line, so that I can add a link on this blog. I’ll also see if I can set up a somewhat better system and, if so, will let all of you know.

STS-120 MCC Status Report #32

Space shuttle Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center, FloridaSTS-120
Report #32
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007 – 2 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

After 6.25 million miles and 15 days, space shuttle Discovery landed safely in Florida completing its 34th mission and circling the Earth 238 times.

Under command of astronaut Pam Melroy, the shuttle touched down on runway 33 at 12:01 p.m., after the 23rd mission to the International Space Station.

Discovery’s crew – Melroy, Pilot George Zamka and mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Doug Wheelock, Paolo Nespoli and Clay Anderson – will return to Houston Thursday. A welcoming ceremony for the crew is planned for 4 p.m. at NASA’s Hangar 276 on the south end of Ellington Field.

During the record stay at the station, Discovery delivered the Harmony Node with its 2,600 cubic feet of pressurized volume. Left in a temporary location while the shuttle occupied its permanent home on the Destiny laboratory, Harmony will be prepared for relocation by the Expedition 16 crew over the next three weeks before the next shuttle mission arrives.

“We could not have done this mission without Discovery being as clean and wonderful as it was. The whole agency had to pull together for this mission,” Melroy said on the runway flanked by Discovery.

Station commander Peggy Whitson along with Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Dan Tani will oversee the work to configure station systems for the arrival of a new science laboratory supplied by the European Space Agency next month. Tani exchanged places with Anderson, who spent 152 days in space – 148 of which were onboard the station.

The STS-120 Discovery crew also moved the port 6 truss – or P6 –segment and its accompanying solar arrays to its permanent home at the end of the stations truss, and repaired damage done to the solar array as it was being redeployed.

Next up is Atlantis, which is scheduled to roll to the launch pad Saturday. It will carry ESA’s Columbus laboratory to the station in early December on the STS-122 mission. Discovery will be towed by to its processing hangar this afternoon to begin preparations for its STS-124 mission in April 2008.

Discovery home again!

After a very successful flight, Discovery made a safe landing at Kennedy Space Center just a few minutes ago. The astronauts are exiting the space shuttle for the landing press conference.

The landing was successful on its first attempt, right at the home base at Kennedy Space Center.
This was probably the most on time flight for years now – launch on first attempt, perfect orbit operations and now even a landing that could not be more perfect. Congrats to the whole NASA team for this fantastic effort.

Among the many achievements was a historic space walk to restore the international space station ISS to fully operational state after rips where detected in a solar array. This spacewalk was made possible not only by the professional work of the space walkers but also hundereds, if not thousands, of people on the ground that got a plan ready within a very short time frame.

As it looks now, Atlantis STS-122 December, 6th launch will probably be also right on time. But today let’s celebrate the successful STS-120 mission.

Deorbit burn successful …

NASA just announced that the deorbit burn was successful. Discovery has slowed down by just 148 mph, but that is enough to descent within one hour. The landing is expected at 1:01pm ET at Kennedy Space Center.

All in all, it looks like an excellent mission, with an on-time launch on the first attempt as well as a landing on its first attempt, too.

Discovery on her way home…

The astronauts on board space shuttle Discovery have just initiated the deorbit burn. TThe burn is 1 minute, 85 second to slow down the shuttle for its decent back to earth. Each orbital maneuvering engine provides 6,0000 pounds of thrust for this maneuver.

STS-120 MCC Status Report #31

Report #31
4 a.m. CST Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – The astronauts on space shuttle Discovery are only hours away from a landing in Florida that will conclude a successful 15-day mission that delivered a new module and repaired a damaged solar array on the International Space Station.

This morning’s wakeup song, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” by Sherman and Sherman, was played at 1:38 a.m. CST for Commander Pam Melroy.

Deorbit preparations begin at 7:03 a.m. and the crew should get the okay to close the payload bay doors at 8:19 a.m. If systems are good and the weather cooperates, Melroy will conduct the deorbit burn at 10:59 a.m. That will slow Discovery enough to fall out of orbit to begin its descent toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility at 12:01 p.m. CST.

A landing on that opportunity will wrap up Mission Specialist Clay Anderson’s flight to the International Space Station after 152 days in space.

There is another landing opportunity on the following orbit, which would put touchdown at 1:36 p.m. CST.

Aboard the International Space Station today, Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Dan Tani will review the plan for Friday’s spacewalk. Whitson and Malenchenko will undo connections between the Destiny laboratory and Pressurized Mating Adapter 2, in advance of robotics operations next week. That work will relocate PMA-2 to the new Harmony module, then move both of them into place on the front of the lab.

The next STS-120 status report will be issued Wednesday afternoon or earlier if events warrant.

STS-120 MCC Status Report #30

Report #30
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007 – 3 p.m. CST
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas

HOUSTON – The seven astronauts on board space shuttle Discovery completed final preparations today for their return home with landing planned for the first of two opportunities to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, at 12:02 p.m. Wednesday.

In preparation for the return home, the crew tested flight control systems and thruster jets, stowed equipment and installed a special reclining seat for Clay Anderson, who is returning after more than five months on board the International Space Station. Later, the crew oversaw an orbit adjust maneuver to optimize landing opportunities with weather forecasts indicating favorable conditions for Wednesday’s landing.

Early Wednesday morning, Entry Team Flight Director Bryan Lunney and his team will oversee Discovery’s reentry and landing with the deorbit burn set for 10:59 a.m. The 1 minute, 58 second burn will slow Discovery by 148 miles per hour (217 feet per second) for the reentry across the heartland of the United States traveling from the northwest to southeast.

A second landing opportunity also is available about 90 minutes later. Lunney will consider Florida only for Wednesday’s landing attempts with plenty of consumables on board to stay in space through Saturday, if necessary.

After its final on-orbit wakeup call from Mission Control at 1:38 a.m. Wednesday, the crew will begin landing preparations at 7:03 a.m. and close Discovery’s payload bay doors at 11:42 a.m. for reentry.

Aboard the space station, Commander Peggy Whitson, and Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Dan Tani had some off duty time before their full-court press toward Friday’s spacewalk by Whitson and Malenchenko to prepare Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 for its relocation Nov. 12.

The next STS-120 status report will be issued Wednesday morning or earlier if events warrant.

Important Reminder: All Times are CST! Add 1 hour for EST!