Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and a Bonus!

We received a Thanksgiving invitation from our friend Donna up in Gilbert (southeast suburb of Phoenix). The best thing is, she offered to do most of the work! We contributed a pumpkin chocolate marble cheesecake and green bean casserole, but the rest was her effort and it was great! The trip up to Phoenix was like being in rush hour for 2 hours - not quite bumper-to-bumper, but close. We got there about 11:30, a couple hours before eating, and helped with what we could, but Donna had most everything under control. The photo at left is our holiday table just after I hacked at the turkey and before chowing down. Donna is in the background holding the remnants of my beer for me...

An hour later, stuffed, with LOTS of leftovers, we adjourned while some of us (me) took a nap. Eventually we digested enough to have a piece of cheesecake - the girls thought it was the greatest!

Finally, I reminded them that the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) was making a pass just after 6pm. I had missed photographing an Iridium flare the night before, so we made it out in plenty of time to set up a tripod and camera to capture them. While the Shuttle Atlantis and the Space Station had been attached for the week-long mission, they had undocked in preparations for Atlantis' scheduled landing in Florida tomorrow morning.

In an open field only a block or two from Donna's house (near Power Line Road and Guadalupe)we easily spotted the bright ISS just off the northwestern horizon. The slightly fainter shuttle trailed by 15 or 20 seconds. It passed very close to Polaris and the Double Cluster before continuing to the east where it faded into the Earth's shadow. We waved and shouted a Thanksgiving greeting as they passed. The first exposure is 2.5 seconds, the other 2 are about 14 seconds, all with a Nikon 20mm F/2.8 and ISO 800 (click the images to load the full size version). To predict when the Space Station, shuttle or Iridium flares will be visible, THE Internet tool to use is the website - just enter your location from a map or database and you are on your way! Interestingly, it's appearance from Tucson, 120 miles to the Southeast, was very similar. But at 5 miles per second, it made the trip in less than 30 seconds - if only it were so easy for our return home!

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