Friday, February 19, 2010

Cool video of the Atlas V rocket launch from Feb. 14

From Boing Boing: "Skip forward about two minutes into this launch video of the Atlas V rocket on Feb 14, 2010, for the moment when it goes supersonic while passing through a layer of ice-crystals, creating a visible sonic boom in sun-dog form. Breath-taking."

The Detroit Science Center's COO and Vice President for Visitor Experiences, Todd Slisher was at the launch when this took place - after taking a look at this video, he had this to add about what he saw that day:

Our group that was taking pictures and video of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atlas V launch and did see the shock waves shown in the video, but we didn't see the sundog. A Sundog is formed by high altitude ice crystals acting as prisms to split the suns light, much like raindrops do for a rainbow. It forms 22 degrees away from the sun at the same altitude in the sky, and is generally seen when the sun is fairly low near to the horizon. However a Sundog and its visibility is heavily dependent on the angle of the viewer. From our viewing location (the press site) we didn't see the sundog itself. The sundog was visible from the Banana Creek VIP viewing site where this video was shot. It is about 1 mile further away from the site than we were observing the launch.

I did talk to several of the Scientists and Engineers on the SDO mission after the launch who were viewing from the Banana Creek VIP site, and they all reported seeing the Sundog and its disruption by the shock waves of the atlas rocket passing nearby. Look for interviews that we captured with Phil Chamberlin, the deputy project scientist for SDO, after the launch that talk about this in our new planetarium show coming in 2011!

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