RT @BrentSpiner – Guess they decided to go with Ellen DeGeneris for American Idol instead of me. Oh well, at least she looks like me.
By Brendan Loy
Space Shuttle Discovery’s scheduled landing was scrubbed Thursday afternoon, so in the evening, I was able to see the Shuttle and the International Space Station together in the sky for the third consecutive night. Well, sort of. This time, they were far enough apart that I didn’t actually see them both simultaneously (the Shuttle had “set” behind a nearby house before I caught my first glimpse of the ISS), and I certainly couldn’t have captured them in the same camera frame.
I did get some nice photos of just the ISS, though — or, in this case, of the ISS and a low-flying airplane:
The airplane, at the top, is making its approach to DIA. Meanwhile the Space Station, i.e. the steady line in the middle-left part of the image, is nearing the Big Dipper, which is visible at right, above our neighbor’s house.
More notably, if you look closely at the line of the ISS, you’ll see that it appears to “flare” slightly in the middle of the 25-second exposure — a visual effect that can occur when a stray glint of direct sunlight reflects off the Space Station’s enormous solar panels. Here’s a close-up, highly enhanced version of the same image, more clearly showing the flare:
The star it’s passing is, I believe, Cor Caroli. It appears elongated because of the long exposure and the rotation of the earth. Anyway, the ISS bright spot occurred at around 8:03:20 PM, which is almost 40 seconds prior to the ISS’s predicted peak altitude, and thus peak brightness, for this pass. So it was definitely a flare.
More photos after the jump.
By Brendan Loy
In the course of a FiveThirtyEight blog post on last night’s ObamaCare speech, Tom Schaller reminds us more broadly that the policies which have left our nation in a deep fiscal hole — exacerbating (and complicating the solutions to) other crises, like health care and infrastructure and the Great Recession of 2008-09, while also growing rapidly into a crisis unto itself — aren’t merely the fault of our leaders (they of the “collective failure” for which Congress bizarrely applauded itself last night). They are also our fault, the voters’ fault:
Obama’s key line—that the health care problem is our deficit problem—is essentially (if incompletely) true. But the nature of health and health care makes it very difficult to get people to begin conceiving of health care as a budgetary problem for the federal government, or least conceiving of it primarily and forebodingly that way.
And frankly, the notion that Americans of the current and previous governing generations care about the government’s fiscal solvency is belied by the fact that most cannot remember the government balancing the budget in their adult lifetimes. They have shown a willingness to let the country spend inefficiently and beyond its means for years, on policies (as Obama pointed out) both domestic and foreign. I’d like to believe that rationality and long-term planning governed the thinking of politicians and voters. But there’s too much evidence to the contrary. I know this sounds cynical, and I hope I’m wrong.
That said, Obama is trying to win an argument on its merits, on logic, and statistics and projections. In an ideal world, that sort of pragmatic rationality would be enough. But we don’t live in such a world.
Indeed not. But we’ve always lived in an imperfect and sometimes irrational world, populated as it is by human beings. And yet we have not always chosen to govern ourselves in a manner that is so obviously and transparently insane. Something has happened in the last few decades that has led us to this place as a nation. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, though I strongly suspect it’s quite a bit more complicated than the rote ideological answers that adherents to each “side” would suggest. In fact, as I’ve said before, I imagine it would make for quite a fascinating interdisciplinary Ph.D. thesis — I’m thinking political science, business, economics, law, sociology, journalism, communications, science and technology, for starters — if somebody really, really smart could even begin to get at the true answer(s).
In any case, America is well and truly doomed if we don’t figure out what’s gone wrong in our body politic, and fix it. We are a nation of children, being governed by the fellow children whom we choose to “lead” us, and we desperately need to grow up, fast. Regardless of which party has been in power, we have spent the last 3+ decades pretending, in ways both public and private, governmental and otherwise, that we can have our cake and eat it too, that our unsustainable ways are in fact somehow sustainable, and that anyone who says otherwise can just be ignored, as we stick our fingers in our ears and yell “lalalalalalala” — much like my 20-month-old daughter is presently obsessed with doing. Unfortunately, unlike my daughter, we have no adult supervision. But the party’s almost over, and when the cops come to break it up, we’re going to be in some very serious trouble.
Here’s my photo of station and shuttle from Massachusetts on Wednesday evening:
It was really nice seeing Brendan’s video from the shuttle overflight on Tuesday evening. I watched the pair fly over Boston two orbits earlier, and his video definitely captured the sense of what it was like to see them go past that evening.
The weather forecast for landing tomorrow (Thursday) evening in Florida is looking uncertain. If the shuttle stays up for another day, many people in North America may have another chance to watch the duo flying overhead tomorrow night.
UPDATE BY BRENDAN: A final decision on whether Discovery can land today will come by 5:40 PM EDT. You can follow developments at Spaceflight Now.
If Discovery doesn’t land today, tonight’s double flyovers will be worth checking out, but the pair will be even further apart in the sky than last night — 141 seconds (2:21) at the time of their potential pass over Colorado, as opposed to 73 seconds last night and 13 seconds two nights ago. Here’s a look at where they’d be in the sky over Denver at 8:01:30 PM and 8:03:00 PM MDT, respectively, if the Shuttle is still up there:
[Bumped. -ed. // Original timestamp Sep 10, 2009 @ 4:07.]