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John Kierein
2003-Feb-03, 12:59 PM
I am wondering if the Shuttle might have been hit by lightning during re-entry. Red sprites are known to go almost to orbital height as lightning above thunderstorms. I heard a report that a cameraman with IR saw a spark hit the shuttle. The plasma around the shuttle makes a good conductor to attract lightning and there have been reports of people hearing sounds when meteorites re-enter which must be due to some lightning-like phenomena because the sounds would not travel as fast as the light from the meteors. Heard any reports like this?

Argos
2003-Feb-03, 02:10 PM
At least that would be more likely than a meteor impact, that some people got to consider seriously according to what I read in the news sites. They even put the probability of a meteor impact ahead of a terrorist act, which sound very strange to me, given the current circumstances.

Valiant Dancer
2003-Feb-03, 02:46 PM
On 2003-02-03 09:10, Argos wrote:
At least that would be more likely than a meteor impact, that some people got to consider seriously according to what I read in the news sites. They even put the probability of a meteor impact ahead of a terrorist act, which sound very strange to me, given the current circumstances.


Ok. Here's the logic behind the possibility of a terrorist attack being almost nil.

Terrorists go for flashy. If they were going to blow up the Space Shuttle, they would have done it while it sat on the ground or shortly after liftoff. They would not have waited 16 days. So the chance of an internal sabotage is highly unlikely.

As for external shoot down of the craft, The soviets couldn't hit an aircraft flying at 80,000 feet and mach 3.2 with surface to air nor air to air missiles. How would you expect a terrorist to be able to hit something at over five times that speed and over twice the distance. This places an external terrorist attack to be likewise nearly nil for probability.

What possibly happened is that reentry tiles were damaged or destroyed on takeoff. On re-entry, the damaged or missing tiles allowed the extreme heat of re-entry to pass through to the left wing of the craft. This burned through and caused the loss of the craft and crew. (or at least according to current evidence and analysis) A meteor strike could also damage these tiles. With the extreme amount of security present post 9/11 at NASA sites and additional security added for the Israeli national on the mission, the possibility of a device smuggled on board the craft to destroy it 16 days later and the infiltrator escape unnoticed is nearly impossible.

Jigsaw
2003-Feb-03, 03:33 PM
Heard this, dunno what to make of it.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/02/03/MN33624.DTL

Monday, February 3, 2003

Breakup may have begun above California
Caltech astronomer noted 'debris shedding' as Columbia passed overhead

...Top NASA officials appealed for photographs or video evidence from amateur sky-watchers on the West Coast, after confirming they had received detailed written descriptions from a Caltech radio astronomer who said he saw what appeared to be "debris shedding from the orbiter" as it streaked over the eastern Sierra.

Radio-astronomer Anthony Beasley, of Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory, told The Chronicle the shuttle had "a sparkle effect" as it passed overhead, and then he saw a bright piece separate. "It was like it dropped a flare, and kept going," he said.

The shuttle's passage over California at 5:53 a.m. PST Saturday coincided with the first indications of trouble onboard, when a bank of sensors on the trailing edge of the left wing blinked out. Five minutes later, streaking above New Mexico, the shuttle itself began to dip slightly to the left, suggesting a higher turbulence on that side of the vehicle -- which could have been caused by damaged or missing heat-shielding tiles.

Columbia broke apart 1 minute later...

< snip >

...And a San Francisco amateur astronomer has shown The Chronicle -- but not released publicly -- a photograph of a vivid, lightning-like discharge apparently crossing through the contrail's left side. The image is one of five snapped in sequence at 5:53 a.m., when the shuttle's sensors began to fail.

Argos
2003-Feb-03, 03:55 PM
On 2003-02-03 09:46, Valiant Dancer wrote:

Ok. Here's the logic behind the possibility of a terrorist attack being almost nil.



Surely. I never thought of a terrorist attack.

What I´m saying is that a meteor impact would be even more unlikely than a terrorist attack. John Kierien´s hypothesis is far more plausible to me.

Also, I don´t think we know too much about terrorists to rule out "non-flashy" displays. Again, I would look for a saboteur prior to considering a meteor.

CJSF
2003-Feb-03, 04:16 PM
It was perfectly clear along Columbia's re-entry path. There were no thunerstorms below it to shoot red sprites or blue jets into the upper atmosphere.

CJSF

g99
2003-Feb-03, 04:21 PM
Highly unlikely that it would of been hit by lightning. This time of the year it is very dry down south and little rain and thunderstorms.

Plus airplanes get hit by lightning all the time, all it leaves is scorch marks and that is it. No aftert effects except shocked crew and passengers.

Bill Thmpson
2003-Feb-03, 04:35 PM
On 2003-02-03 07:59, John Kierein wrote:
I am wondering if the Shuttle might have been hit by lightning during re-entry.


I live near Austin, Texas. It was a beautiful, clear, and otherwise perfect day. I was amaized how clear the weather was. Unseasonably so -- like California.

Hale_Bopp
2003-Feb-03, 04:55 PM
Lightning is unlikely, but not unprecedented. Apollo 12 was struck by lightning shortly after liftoff and survived. Of course, the skin of a Saturn V is a good conductor and probably provided good protection. The Shuttle tiles are not nearly as good of a conductor and would probably not provide the same level of protection.

Although unlikely, it could't hurt to check weather records. Still sounds like thermal failure to me.

Rob

Kaptain K
2003-Feb-03, 04:59 PM
Lightning? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_confused.gif Your joking, right? Lightning (of any kind) requires thunderstorms. Sprites occur only over the most severe of severe t-storms. Like Bill Thompson, I live near Austin, Texas and can assure you that there was not a cloud in the sky, much less severe weather of any form.

Bill Thmpson
2003-Feb-03, 05:01 PM
http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?topic=3688&forum=2&8

John Kierein
2003-Feb-03, 05:20 PM
I had a meteorologist look over the weather along the shuttle flight. There were thunderstorms around 180 deg W and 30 deg N, well to the west of Hawaii. I looked at
http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/groundtracs/sts-107/ksc255/ksc255_long.gif
It appears the Shuttle flew directly overhead of there. This is probably the time of blackout.
But, of course, the report of lightning was from California. These sort of reports may be suspect. I rather doubt the lightning possibility, but at this stage we don't want to rule out anything. I agree that the weather was clear everywhere else along the path.

calliarcale
2003-Feb-03, 05:24 PM
Lightning sounds very unlikely, but yes, I suppose it shouldn't be ruled out completely.

A micrometerite impact during the mission might be possible, though I find the odds of hitting one during reentry to be extremely small. The crew would probably have noticed such an impact anyway; they feel impacts that cause much less damage.

The terrorism theory is laughable, frankly. It simply cannot have been shot down, and the level of checking, double checking, and triple checking that goes on during the preflight processing gives a terrorist basically no chance to do anything without having it be detected prior to liftoff.

The most likely thing to look at is impact damage from whatever came off the ET (foam, ice, both), but even that may well turn out to be a red herring.

g99
2003-Feb-03, 05:26 PM
I see where you are going on this now. I agree you can't throw anything out, but the highly unlikely ones you can put less emphasis on finding out the truth on. It is a possibility, but not that large.

nebularain
2003-Feb-03, 06:46 PM
From article posted above

...And a San Francisco amateur astronomer has shown The Chronicle -- but not released publicly -- a photograph of a vivid, lightning-like discharge apparently crossing through the contrail's left side. The image is one of five snapped in sequence at 5:53 a.m., when the shuttle's sensors began to fail.

So, what are the speculations on what this man(?) saw?

Eirik
2003-Feb-03, 07:02 PM
Hard to speculate until we see the photos he claimed to have taken. My thought, after seeing a video last night shot in Nevada where the sky was still dark, it that it was essentially a flare from something buring up after falling off the shuttle. That video showed a bright flash and then a second smaller bright blip in the flight path. The cameraman even is heard saying something like "Holy crap! What was that?"

Given that the sensors started failing long before it crossed over Texas, it's possible that the shuttle had small bits breaking off for many hundreds or thousands of miles before the final catastrophic failure.

Stuart
2003-Feb-03, 07:03 PM
On 2003-02-03 09:46, Valiant Dancer wrote: Ok. Here's the logic behind the possibility of a terrorist attack being almost nil. Terrorists go for flashy. If they were going to blow up the Space Shuttle, they would have done it while it sat on the ground or shortly after liftoff. They would not have waited 16 days. So the chance of an internal sabotage is highly unlikely.

As for external shoot down of the craft, The soviets couldn't hit an aircraft flying at 80,000 feet and mach 3.2 with surface to air nor air to air missiles. How would you expect a terrorist to be able to hit something at over five times that speed and over twice the distance. This places an external terrorist attack to be likewise nearly nil for probability. What possibly happened is that reentry tiles were damaged or destroyed on takeoff.

With the extreme amount of security present post 9/11 at NASA sites and additional security added for the Israeli national on the mission, the possibility of a device smuggled on board the craft to destroy it 16 days later and the infiltrator escape unnoticed is nearly impossible.

Amen. Timing an explosive device to go off during re-entry would require miraculous skills. As to missiles, the only ones that could score an intercept at the altitudes and speeds in question are the ABMs around Moscow. They are nuclear-tipped; if one had been fired, somebody would have noticed. We can pretty well rule terrorism out on this ome.

Rue
2003-Feb-03, 07:28 PM
Pravda seems to claim an internet experiment is responsible for the accident.

<quote>"...it was for the first time that a space craft got an Internet address of its own which provided it with connection with the Earth through the satellite. Such an experiment was held for the first time; it is no wonder that when the catastrophe occurred, it was almost immediately reported that it could be somehow connected with the Internet experiment carried out during the flight. It will take some time to find out whether such suggestions are true or absurd."
</quote>

http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/02/03/42911.html

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Rue on 2003-02-03 14:29 ]</font>

calliarcale
2003-Feb-03, 08:15 PM
Not likely; flight-critical computers have no support for Interent protocols and no reason to be on the Internet at all. Most likely, if there was an Internet-related experiment going on it was something in the SpaceHab module running on a Windows or Linux laptop. It would likely only have been operational while the high-bandwidth Ku-band antenna was deployed, which means only while the Shuttle's payload bay was open. It would have had no impact whatsoever on the mission.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-03, 08:53 PM
The only country capable of hitting a space shuttle at the time of reentry using a missile is USA. This is NOT a terrorist act.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-03, 08:54 PM
I was wondering though, how likely is it to be hit by a micro-meteorite?

Colt
2003-Feb-03, 09:00 PM
On 2003-02-03 14:03, Stuart wrote:


On 2003-02-03 09:46, Valiant Dancer wrote: Ok. Here's the logic behind the possibility of a terrorist attack being almost nil. Terrorists go for flashy. If they were going to blow up the Space Shuttle, they would have done it while it sat on the ground or shortly after liftoff. They would not have waited 16 days. So the chance of an internal sabotage is highly unlikely.

As for external shoot down of the craft, The soviets couldn't hit an aircraft flying at 80,000 feet and mach 3.2 with surface to air nor air to air missiles. How would you expect a terrorist to be able to hit something at over five times that speed and over twice the distance. This places an external terrorist attack to be likewise nearly nil for probability. What possibly happened is that reentry tiles were damaged or destroyed on takeoff.

With the extreme amount of security present post 9/11 at NASA sites and additional security added for the Israeli national on the mission, the possibility of a device smuggled on board the craft to destroy it 16 days later and the infiltrator escape unnoticed is nearly impossible.

Amen. Timing an explosive device to go off during re-entry would require miraculous skills. As to missiles, the only ones that could score an intercept at the altitudes and speeds in question are the ABMs around Moscow. They are nuclear-tipped; if one had been fired, somebody would have noticed. We can pretty well rule terrorism out on this ome.


*cheers* I was about to say the same thing before I read your post. It would take something like an ICBM flying up in front of the shuttles trajectory and then detonating to knock it down. I think someone would have noticed that too. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif -Colt

Argos
2003-Feb-03, 11:29 PM
I think there is a
The chain of events starts at the moment the left wing is hit by debris in the beggining of the flight.

harlequin
2003-Feb-04, 08:50 PM
On 2003-02-03 14:28, Rue wrote:
Pravda seems to claim an internet experiment is responsible for the accident.

<quote>"...it was for the first time that a space craft got an Internet address of its own which provided it with connection with the Earth through the satellite. Such an experiment was held for the first time; it is no wonder that when the catastrophe occurred, it was almost immediately reported that it could be somehow connected with the Internet experiment carried out during the flight. It will take some time to find out whether such suggestions are true or absurd."
</quote>

http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/02/03/42911.html



Pravda is probably even less reliable now then it was when it was a in the Soviet propoganda business. It has found a post-communist niche with tabloid-quality journalism.

AstroGman
2003-Feb-04, 11:07 PM
No,It was too high up.200 000 feet is almost forty miles above the earth,and I would think that the air is WAY too thin up at that height to carry lightning.So no,I don,t think that lightning is the culprit.I think that the failure of the heat tiles caused the accident.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-05, 12:09 AM
On 2003-02-04 18:07, AstroGman wrote:
No,It was too high up.200 000 feet is almost forty miles above the earth,and I would think that the air is WAY too thin up at that height to carry lightning.So no,I don,t think that lightning is the culprit.I think that the failure of the heat tiles caused the accident.


NPR reported that they have found pieces of the Shuttle in Phoenix, AZ. This could be an important clue as something might have happened way before the reentry.

I was wondering about the likelihood of getting hit by space debris. Is there such a chance?

According to NASA engineers a piece of insulation or ice falling onto the wings should not cause the damage to the extent that leads to a catastrophic failure like this one. At most, it might produce a scratch or a gouge.

nebularain
2003-Feb-05, 12:33 AM
I asked this on a thread that ended up getting locked. Sorry, BA, I wasn't trying to feed a conspiracy-thread; I was just curious about some mechanics. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_frown.gif

Do the shuttles normally leave a vapor trail behind on re-entry?

In watching one of the videos, it looked like there might have been an explosion before some pieces broke off. Was that mere appearance, or would the breaking apart of the shuttle created some things to explode?

I hope it is OK to ask this. I really am just being curious and wanting to understand.

Hale_Bopp
2003-Feb-05, 12:39 AM
Well, as to the probablity of being hit by space debris, the Chicago Tribune did an interesting little exercise. They estimated the number of pieces falling on Nacodoches (sp?) county, assumed everyone was outside and standing evenly spaced and found that there was only a 6.5% chance of anyone being hit if EVERYONE was outside! So they seem to be saying that this incident fell in the 95.5% of the times that no one would get hit.

Rob

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-05, 12:41 AM
Once the orbiter began to break up, hypergolic fuels could have leaked, mixed, and exploded. That would be a result of the breakup, not the cause.

I saw the home video taken of the orbiter over Arizona, which clearly shows something coming off the shuttle. It was obvious enough that the photographer pointed it out and, in an alarmed voice, said, "What the heck was that?"

Another observer (an astronomer) saw several glowing objects break off the shuttle over California.

Interesting, however, that whatever caused those phenomena was not obvious to the pilot - he made no report of unusual events (and this was several minutes, at least, before the last communication).

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-05, 12:42 AM
Hale, I think the question was referring to the possibility of the shuttle being struck by space junk on orbit or during reentry - not the public being struck by shuttle debris.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-05, 01:04 AM
On 2003-02-04 19:42, Donnie B. wrote:
Hale, I think the question was referring to the possibility of the shuttle being struck by space junk on orbit or during reentry - not the public being struck by shuttle debris.



Thanks, Donnie. Yes, that was my question: the Space Shuttle being struck by space debris, not the public on ground.

Sorry, I didn't make that clear earlier.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-05, 01:06 AM
On 2003-02-04 19:41, Donnie B. wrote:
Another observer (an astronomer) saw several glowing objects break off the shuttle over California.


Over California? That would be before the reentry, correct?

Geographically, at what point (over which geographic location) does the shuttle would be entering the thinnest layers of out atmosphere?

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-05, 01:55 AM
It would have been relatively early in the reentry.

In fact, the shuttles normally fly within the upper reaches of the atmosphere while on orbit. On the nightside, a faint glow is often seen around the tail and OMS pods, due to collisions with oxygen atoms.

Naturally, as the orbiter descends, it encounters increasing atmospheric density. It would certainly be experiencing significant heating over California on the way to a Florida landing. The peak heating would have been over Texas, just where the main breakup occurred.

SpacedOut
2003-Feb-05, 02:42 AM
On 2003-02-04 19:33, nebularain wrote:
Do the shuttles normally leave a vapor trail behind on re-entry?

In watching one of the videos, it looked like there might have been an explosion before some pieces broke off. Was that mere appearance, or would the breaking apart of the shuttle created some things to explode?

Answer to #1 – yes-it is a plasma vapor trail caused by the superheated atmosphere. IRRC it’s the same thing you see behind a meteor. (Its been a while since I’ve read BA’s book)

Can’t really help you with question 2 – I just thought that when Columbia broke up there was a bloom in the plasma trail. Don’t know if the forces involved would have caused an explosion.

[fixed some formatting]


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SpacedOut on 2003-02-04 21:45 ]</font>

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-05, 06:48 PM
Thanks for the response. Now, a couple of questions:

>>...around the tail and OMS pods, due
1. What is OMS? (pardon my ignorance)

>>...collisions with oxygen atoms.
2. How would these Oxygen atoms "stay" there? I main, why don't they "fly" away into the depths of space - vacuum?

ToSeek
2003-Feb-05, 08:19 PM
On 2003-02-05 13:48, SiriMurthy wrote:
Thanks for the response. Now, a couple of questions:

>>...around the tail and OMS pods, due
1. What is OMS? (pardon my ignorance)



Orbital Maneuvering System. Small(er) rockets at the back of the shuttle, above the main engines. Used to adjust the orbit as needed.

John Kierein
2003-Feb-05, 08:31 PM
http://elf.gi.alaska.edu/
This site says that sprites are visible to at least 95 kilometers height. That's about 300,000 ft. They may extend higher but there may not be enough air for them be visible above that.

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-05, 09:25 PM
On 2003-02-05 13:48, SiriMurthy wrote:
Thanks for the response. Now, a couple of questions:

>>...around the tail and OMS pods, due
1. What is OMS? (pardon my ignorance)

>>...collisions with oxygen atoms.
2. How would these Oxygen atoms "stay" there? I main, why don't they "fly" away into the depths of space - vacuum?

1) Orbital Maneuvering System. (ToSeek is exactly right.) Those are the smaller rocket motors that sit "above" the main engines; the two big bulges at the tail are there to house the OMS engines. You often see those bulges in pictures of the cargo bay taken from inside the crew compartment.

2) The same reason the rest of the atmosphere stays put: gravity. To escape completely, a particle has to reach escape velocity (something around 25000 mi/hr). Some O2 atoms may occasionally do so at those altitudes through collisions with particles of the solar wind or cosmic rays, but most don't. So there they stay.

The atmosphere doesn't have a "top"... it just gets thinner and thinner the farther out you go. In practical terms, it's a near-perfect vacuum at the altitude where the shuttle operates, but go twice as high and it's an even better vacuum. And at some point, it becomes as tenuous as the solar wind, and then I suppose you can say you're out of the Earth's atmosphere and into the Sun's.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-05, 10:24 PM
...the two big bulges at the tail are there to house the OMS engines.

Of course! /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif I always wondered what those "bulges" were, even though I was aware of the rocket nozzles sticking out of those areas, it never occurred that these "bulges" house the engines.

OK, now I know what OMS stands for. Thanks.



2) The same reason the rest of the atmosphere stays put: gravity. To escape completely, a particle has to reach escape velocity (something around 25000 mi/hr). Some O2 atoms may occasionally do so at those altitudes through collisions with particles of the solar wind or cosmic rays, but most don't. So there they stay.


Excellent! Thanks for the education. I guess that's the reason why atmosphere didn't stay on Mars - it doesn't have enough mass to have the gravity that is enough to keep the "air" (I mean atmosphere) on its surface.



The atmosphere doesn't have a "top"... it just gets thinner and thinner the farther out you go. In practical terms, it's a near-perfect vacuum at the altitude where the shuttle operates, but go twice as high and it's an even better vacuum. And at some point, it becomes as tenuous as the solar wind, and then I suppose you can say you're out of the Earth's atmosphere and into the Sun's.


What would you say the level of vacuum is at the height the Shuttle operates - how many times is this better then the best vacuum we can produce on Earth?

Thanks.

Donnie B.
2003-Feb-05, 11:03 PM
Oh, you would have to go and get technical on me... /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

I don't have numbers for you, but if memory serves, the vacuum at typical shuttle altitudes is better than a laboratory vacuum, but not astoundingly so. We can make a pretty good vacuum on a small scale, but not in "large quantity" /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Still, at 100 miles up, it's practically a pressure cooker compared to the really hard vacuum out between the galaxies - one atom per cubic meter or so out there, on average.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-06, 12:50 AM
Oh, you would have to go and get technical on me... /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif
Hey, you are the Bad Master. I am just a Bad Apprentice /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

We can make a pretty good vacuum on a small scale, but not in "large quantity"
I like the way you put it. We "make" good vacuum. What do you make again - oh it is nothing. We make pretty good nothing. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

one atom per cubic meter or so out there, on average.
Yup, that's what I was looking for.

Thanks a bunch.

DaveOlden
2003-Feb-06, 08:49 AM
On 2003-02-03 13:46, nebularain wrote:
From article posted above

...And a San Francisco amateur astronomer has shown The Chronicle -- but not released publicly -- a photograph of a vivid, lightning-like discharge apparently crossing through the contrail's left side. The image is one of five snapped in sequence at 5:53 a.m., when the shuttle's sensors began to fail.

So, what are the speculations on what this man(?) saw?


This is from the SF Chronicle February 2 (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/02/02/MN221641.DTL)

Early in the article:

... taken with a Nikon-880 digital camera on a tripod, reveal what..

The Nikon 880 is indeed a digital camera.
Now, toward the end of the article...

"... but it showed up clear and bright on the film when I developed it," the photographer said.

It struck me as very odd that a photographer, especially an amateur astronomer who would be very familiar with his own camera, would make this mistake.

Kizarvexis
2003-Feb-06, 10:06 AM
On 2003-02-06 03:49, DaveOlden wrote:
"... but it showed up clear and bright on the film when I developed it," the photographer said.

It struck me as very odd that a photographer, especially an amateur astronomer who would be very familiar with his own camera, would make this mistake.



I'm betting that he used 'developed' for the lack of a better term. Or he had a brain lock on 'download' and went with 'developed' as it is close in a general sense, i.e. got the pics out of the camera.

Kizarvexis

DaveOlden
2003-Feb-06, 10:22 AM
On 2003-02-06 05:06, Kizarvexis wrote:


On 2003-02-06 03:49, DaveOlden wrote:
"... but it showed up clear and bright on the film when I developed it," the photographer said.

It struck me as very odd that a photographer, especially an amateur astronomer who would be very familiar with his own camera, would make this mistake.



I'm betting that he used 'developed' for the lack of a better term. Or he had a brain lock on 'download' and went with 'developed' as it is close in a general sense, i.e. got the pics out of the camera.

Kizarvexis




I might have been a little too reactive there, since I do say "filmmaking" while I'm editing digital video. Some terminology is pretty stubborn. You have a good point there.

I certainly did not mean to discount his claim; how could I? I haven't even seen the image, and I have no reason to doubt him.

I am eager to see what it is that caused that light.

John Kierein
2003-Feb-06, 03:07 PM
Here's an update.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/02/06/MN22145.DTL
They still haven't connected to the storms to the west of Hawaii. The plasma trail went right over these. The plasma trail persists and makes a good path to the orbiter even over that distance. Ignorasphere.

SiriMurthy
2003-Feb-06, 05:09 PM
On 2003-02-06 10:07, John Kierein wrote:
Here's an update.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/02/06/MN22145.DTL
They still haven't connected to the storms to the west of Hawaii. The plasma trail went right over these. The plasma trail persists and makes a good path to the orbiter even over that distance. Ignorasphere.


Wow! I thought you were just making up the term "Ignorasphere" until I followed the link. Pretty deep stuff. John, you may be right about lightning all along /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_confused.gif

John Kierein
2003-Feb-07, 12:20 AM
There are explosive charges in the wheel well in case the door gets stuck. The temperatures recorded were not sufficient to set them off, according to the program manager. But could a lightning strike have done it?

DALeffler
2003-Feb-07, 01:33 AM
I dunno Mr. Kierein...

Apollo 13 got hit directly by lightning at least twice in stage 1 ascent and had all kinds of explosive charges on board...

On the other hand, Gus Grissom always said (I think), "It just blew..."

Might be interesting to compare the track of MR-4 to Columbia. Hmm.

Doug.

(Corrected sp...)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: DALeffler on 2003-02-06 20:34 ]</font>

ToSeek
2003-Feb-07, 04:33 AM
On 2003-02-06 20:33, DALeffler wrote:
I dunno Mr. Kierein...

Apollo 13 got hit directly by lightning at least twice in stage 1 ascent and had all kinds of explosive charges on board...



Apollo 12 (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-350/ch-7-3.html), actually, though that doesn't affect your point.

Hale_Bopp
2003-Feb-07, 04:58 AM
Actually, I mentioned the Apollo 12 lightning strike a bit back /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Actually, unknown at the time, a rocket can spawn lightning strikes. The University of Florida studies lightning by lauching small rockets in an attempt to stimulate strikes in predictable places. After all, you can't study them if you don't know where they will be.

I don't think Columbia would have stimulate a lightning strike. After all, the external skin of Columbia is cermic tile, not a metal conductor like a Saturn V or the small rockets used in research.

The U of Florida Lightning Laboratory page is at http://www.lightning.ece.ufl.edu/

Rob

Squink
2003-Feb-07, 05:19 AM
I don't think Columbia would have stimulate a lightning strike.
That nice trail of conductive plasma stretching out behind it might.

John Kierein
2003-Feb-07, 12:16 PM
I think red sprites are much stronger than ground lightning. I think the really strong red sprite lightning initiated the NASA Standard Initiators. They are only spec'd to survive around 50,000 volts or so. And these were near the surface in the wheel wells.
I am somewhat familiar with the NSI's. We used them a lot on CRRES which was originally planned for a Shuttle launch. NASA should do a test in the configuration of these. Somebody tell 'em if they haven't already figured this out.

John Kierein
2003-Feb-07, 03:49 PM
They're looking. Infrasonics.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/02/07/MN200326.DTL

David Hall
2003-Feb-07, 06:04 PM
I believe the "lightning catcher" rockets used to study lightning always have ground wires attached to them, to create an easy path to the ground and force the lightning strikes to follow the wire instead.

Now, as for the idea that electrical discharge "followed" the shuttle along it's plasma trail, I think it's a very highly speculative idea. Not exactly impossible, but I think it's one that I'd put way down on the list of possible causes, only to be looked at if absolutely nothing else makes sense.

Sprites, elfs, and such do deserve study of course, but it's premature to assign behaviors to them when we know so little about their true natures yet.

Thumper
2003-Feb-07, 06:43 PM
On 2003-02-07 13:04, David Hall wrote:
I believe the "lightning catcher" rockets used to study lightning always have ground wires attached to them, to create an easy path to the ground and force the lightning strikes to follow the wire instead.

You are correct. I saw a show on this some time back. The rockets were fired during a thunderstorm and had ground wires attached.

To avoid the chance that the lightning strike could follow the path of the wiring of the igniter clear into the control room, launch was initiated pneumatically with non-conductive material. I remember hearing the countdown and then the guy grabbed a rubber tube and blew in it.

(spelling)

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Thumper on 2003-02-07 13:45 ]</font>

John Kierein
2003-Feb-08, 10:20 PM
Just like the wires on the rocket, the lightning follows the plasma trail. A friend of mine thinks that the reason lightning takes a jagged path is because it may be partially following the ionization trails of cosmic rays.

DStahl
2003-Feb-08, 10:56 PM
But I don't understand: if lightning-catcher rockets are connected to an earth ground and therefore attract lightning, where's the earth ground connection to the shuttle's plasma trail? Mind you, my father was an electrician and part of my adolescent rebellion consisted of mentally blocking all understanding of things electric, so I'm probably missing something obvious.

SpacedOut
2003-Feb-09, 12:34 AM
On 2003-02-08 17:56, DStahl wrote:
But I don't understand: if lightning-catcher rockets are connected to an earth ground and therefore attract lightning, where's the earth ground connection to the shuttle's plasma trail? Mind you, my father was an electrician and part of my adolescent rebellion consisted of mentally blocking all understanding of things electric, so I'm probably missing something obvious.

Electricity is essentially the flow of electrons. When lightning bolt strikes the Earth, it is essentially seeking a source of electrons. However, the Earth isn’t the only source of electrons – in cloud to cloud lighting (IIRC - the most common form of lightning) one of the clouds acts as the “ground” or pool of electrons. The way to look at the plasma trail is that it could act as a conductor to a “ground” source just as the wire trailing from lighting catcher rockets connect the rocket to the Earth.

DStahl
2003-Feb-09, 04:55 AM
It still needs a ground, though, doesn't it; or more properly perhaps, an electric potential gradient like that which develops between different regions of thunderclouds? As El Sordo said, "Faltan caballos"--it lacks horses.

OK, I think I see what you are saying: suppose the Shuttle passed through a region of negative potential and into one of positive potential; the conductive plasma trail could then act as a path from one region to the other, and the Shuttle would potentially [<font size=-1>Ha! Get it?</font>] be in the circuit. I might have thought that in the rarified upper extremes of the atsmosphere such charged areas would much less likely than lower down, where things like moving water droplets can build up immense electrostatic charges. But then again, red sprites have been observed up there, so SOMETHING is going on.

Though, as someone noted, since we don't understand red sprites very well all this is possibly quite irrelevant.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: DStahl on 2003-02-09 00:02 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: DStahl on 2003-02-09 04:11 ]</font>

DStahl
2003-Feb-09, 09:09 AM
carolyn posted an article from the SF Chronical about the possiblility of an atomospheric discharge causing or contributing to the Columbia disaster. Here's a link to the Feb 7 article (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/02/07/MN200326.DTL) she mentions, and here's another link to an article (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/02/08/MN117739.DTL) of Feb 8 that casts some doubt as to whether this could be a cause after all. Finally, here's yet another Chronicle story (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/02/07/state1745EST0103.DTL), datelined Feb 7, giving some background on sprites, blue jets, and elves.

Thanks to carolyn for bringing these up in her post in the Against the Mainstream section.

John Kierein
2003-Feb-09, 02:18 PM
They're looking too far east. The storms were west of Hawaii, near 180W 30N right under the shuttle's path after re-entry which started even further west.