STS-123 Shuttle Launch From 400 Miles Away


Copyright 2008 Hap Griffin

On Tuesday morning, 3/11/2008 at 2:28 AM, the Shuttle Endeavor lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  This is an image of it captured from near Woodrow, SC...some 400 miles to the north.  From this location, Cape Canaveral is due south, so following a line opposite Polaris I pretty much knew where the shuttle would break the horizon. Having seen four previous shuttle night launches from South Carolina, I knew that from here it takes about 40 seconds after launch for the shuttle to gain enough altitude to become visible over our horizon. Listening to the launch proceedings on Fox News on my car's XM Satellite Radio I knew exactly when it took off.  My aim was a bit off since the shuttle broke the horizon a bit to the left of where I had speculated and I had to shut down that exposure, move the camera and begin another shot.  That is why the shuttle does not appear in the image until it is already above the horizon. 

 As with other night launches, when the count reached T-0 and the shuttle's solid fuel boosters ignited, the whole southern horizon jumped in brightness!  Apparently, the shuttle's engines are so bright that they lit up the high level moisture over the whole eastern coast of Florida! I waited anxiously for the shuttle to appear over the horizon while listening to Mission Control talking to the shuttle pilot. Then at about T+40 seconds, a BRILLIANT orange light appeared coming up over the distant horizon rising towards the east. The trail of flame was very apparent and appeared to be 5 to 10 arc-minutes long. It flickered as it arced and it was exciting to hear the roar of the shuttle over the radio while watching it from over 400 miles away!  The brightness dims as the solid fuel boosters ceased burning.


Date/Location:    March 11, 2008   Woodrow, SC
Instrument:    Canon 10D Digital SLR  
Focal Ratio:   F/5.6
Guiding:    None - Tripod mounted
Conditions:    Thin clond cover 
Weather:    43 F
Exposure: Approximately 40 seconds
Filters:    None
Processing:    Crop of larger frame.