Monday Update: The shuttle landing has been delayed until Tuesday. Dr. Dale Ireland says the expected paths are still in Seattle's neighborhood, but not quite as good as before. If the shuttle comes down on primary landing schedule into Cape Canveral, it would be over Seattle area at 4:10 a.m. but only 8 degrees above the northern horizon, which is quite low. If the shuttle gets waved off and goes around one more orbit, it would be at 20 degrees high in the northern sky at 5:45 a.m.
I'd say the stars are aligning, but that might just be too much of a pun to get away with...
The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to make a rare low pass over the Pacific Northwest as it makes its approach to landing at Cape Canaveral early Monday morning.
According to Dr. Dale Ireland, who does all those cool time lapse videos we showcase here from Silverdale but is also an astronomy buff, says typically the shuttle's landing path is from the south or due west, but this time it going through our neck of the woods.
Ireland says the last time it happened was in 1996, and he snapped the photo you see above. He says the shuttle will be glowing red and leave a glowing yellow trail across the sky.
NASA has not yet calculated the exact time or track just yet -- they plan to do that Sunday or maybe Saturday, Ireland says. You can track that at NASA's Spaceflight site and I'll update this blog entry over the weekend once we get exact time/locations. Ireland has posted this preliminary track based on where the shuttle is orbiting right now:
Best guess as of now is it'll fly over around 5:24 a.m. and be about 15 degrees above the northern horizon. Thus, if you want to grab a peek, try and find someplace with a clear horizon to the north as 15 degrees is fairly low.
Of course, weather will be a factor to contend with, and we do have a chance of cloudy skies if an incoming front gets here by Monday, as some forecasts suggest it might. So we might miss out, but just in case you're up early and the skies have cleared a bit, take a gander to the north!
Frdiay afternoon UPDATE: Just talked a litle more with Dr. Ireland -- If Florida weather conditions force NASA to delay the shuttle landing by "one orbit" (as in, has them take another spin around the globe), the landing track would be over southwestern Washington, which is still good for us, just means we'll have to look south.
If they delay it a full 24 hours until Tuesday morning, the track will be closer to Vancouver BC, which is still closer than the current "no delay" track across an area north of Vancouver. I'll keep updates here on this story as the weekend progresses. We'd be better off, weather wise, with a Tuesday morning landing anyway so cross fingers.
This link is another good resource to keep tabs on what the shuttle is up to, as well as any news on its landing.