Identified flying objects

25/05/2010

Uncategorized – or declassified, you could say

Identified flying objects

It’s always worth keeping an eye on the sky. Not just because a mass ejection from the Sun is heading vaguely our way and there may be nice auroras this week. You could also spot a secret spaceflight, except that the one I have in mind is hardly secret any more.

On 22 April the US Air Force launched an unmanned mini-shuttle, X-37B, from Cape Canaveral on an undisclosed mission. For photo-reconnaissance, you might guess. Four weeks later, amateurs Greg Roberts in South Africa and Kevin Fetter in Canada saw it. On the following night another Canadian, Ted Molczan, found it again, having computed its orbit from the earlier sightings. In the past few days (sorry, all you Pentagon folk) X-37B has been anyone’s game. Today, 25 May, spaceweather.com publishes this picture of its photographic trail as it cruised across the sky, taken by Gary O. in Texas.

Trail of the mini-shuttle X-37B, 2010. Photo by Gary O.

Meanwhile, on 22 May, Thierry Legault in Switzerland got a remarkable shot of the International Space Station passing directly in front of the Sun, with the Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to it – again reported by spaceweather.com

Transit of the ISS front of the Sun, 2010, with Atlantis docked centre-left. Photo by Thierry Legault.

Congratulations, Thierry. To me, this is one of the finest images of the Space Age — and I’ve seen all the pretty ones since 1957.