Space shuttle will be visible for next week


SKYWATCHERS WERE treated to the extraordinary sight of the Endeavour space shuttle with its fuel tank falling away just minutes after lift-off.

Television viewers who saw the successful launch of Endeavour on Wednesday night at just after 11pm Irish time stepped outside to see it pass overhead as planned at 11.21pm. The shuttle was visible as a blue light and the fuel tank as a red light separating from it. It was captured on video and is available on YouTube.

The shuttle was about 270km high and travelling at an incredible speed of 27,000km/h across the night sky, hence its ability to cross the Atlantic in 15 minutes.

Such a sighting is very rare, according to Astronomy Ireland chairman David Moore, who said it had only been witnessed twice in 28 years since shuttle missions started.

“It only happens if there is a shuttle launch going to the International Space Station very close to sunset our time and when the skies are clear as they were on Wednesday night,” he said.

For those who missed the spectacular launch, the shuttle will be visible every night until July 23rd. According to Nasa, it will pass over Dublin at 10.53pm tonight and 00.29am on Saturday morning and will be visible in the southern sky.

The International Space Station will be seen around the same time as the two objects are due to dock with each other tonight. “Either it will be a space chase or the biggest manmade object ever assembled in the sky,” Mr Moore said.

James Adamson from Mayo described the sight of the shuttle and its fuel tank as the “most memorable view I have ever seen” while Conor Farrell and Justin Bogan from Glasnevin said it was a “stunning sight”.

The Endeavour is due to dock with the International Space Station to allow for the installation of Kibo Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility and to facilitate the transfer of crew to and from the ISS.