Atlantis Smoke Plume Shadow Intersecting a Full Moon

Image Credit: Pat McCracken, NASA

More than 10 years ago, shuttle Atlantis took off for one of it’s 33 missions. This launch was different from all the rest however, as a dark blue shadow caused by the launch plume crossed the sky and intersected a full moon. This photograph is literally one in a million.

Why would the shadow of a space shuttle launch plume point toward the Moon? In early 2001 during a launch of Atlantis, the Sun, Earth, Moon, and rocket were all properly aligned for this photogenic coincidence. First, for the space shuttle’s plume to cast a long shadow, the time of day must be either near sunrise or sunset. Only then will the shadow be its longest and extend all the way to the horizon. Finally, during a Full Moon, the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the sky. Just after sunset, for example, the Sun is slightly below the horizon, and, in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above thehorizon. Therefore, as Atlantis blasted off, just after sunset, its shadow projected away from the Sun toward the opposite horizon, where the Full Moon just happened to be. – A.P.O.D.

Link: Shuttle Plume Shadow Points to the Moon

Image Credit: Pat McCracken, NASA

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