29 May 2010


You'll want to click on the above image to enlarge it -- the dark spots at the upper right portion of the solar disk are not sun spots, but rather the International Space Station and the space shuttle Atlantis, transiting the sun. The photo was taken on May 16 during Atlantis' final orbital mission, about 50 minutes prior to the shuttle's docking with the space station. The ISS orbits at an average 185 miles above the earth's surface. The sun is about 93 million miles away, and its diameter is approximately two and a quarter million miles (enough to line up 109 Earths in a row). All of which should give the gentle reader some sense of the vastness of that blazing background, and the relatively puny size of the human objects in sillouette.

Bonus -- here's a link to a time-lapse movie of the night sky over Ecuador's Cotopaxi volcano. Check out the text for a description of the phenomena you'll see as the movie progresses. Enjoy.

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