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Saturday, February 01, 2003

Debris Fields

Glenn points to this radar loop for Shreveport, Louisiana, which shows what seems to be a trail of shuttle debris. By sticking in a different value for "loc" in that (long) URL, you can get different cities, and follow the trail across the country.

Here is a map from a different page on that site, showing a wide view. Substitute the airport codes in for Shreveport's. So, for example, a portion of the Shreveport URL is "loc=kshv"; substitute in another three-letter airport code for "shv". HOWEVER, for most of those, you'll just get the map for the nearest large city. Substituting "lfk" (Lufkin, Texas) just gets you Shreveport again.

For your convenience, here are the cities I found where the trail seems to show up. REMEMBER that these are current, and by the time you see them, the trail may have faded (so I don't know why I'm putting this up, but anyway...).

Glenn says he couldn't save the animated gifs. I have, but I can't post them here.

Amarillo, Texas (NW of radar station)

Ft. Worth/Spinks, Texas (SE)

Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas (SE)

Killeen, Texas (NE)

Ft. Polk, Louisiana (NW -> SE)

Shreveport, Louisiana (SSW -> SSE)

Jackson, Mississippi (SW)

Mobile, Alabama (S -> SE)

The trail has faded even as I was writing this. You really can't see it until it gets to Ft. Polk. Apparently they had only part of their radar going, because you can see only blue shades. I'm not entirely sure that the red blobs to the SW of Jackson are part of the trail, and the Mobile map has only a few blue specks in the Gulf, which may be something else completely.

The Shreveport (and when I first looked at it, Dallas) radars had spokes radiating from the city, in a different direction from the trail. These are probably diffraction spikes, which means that the trail was very radar-bright. You see these in astronomical images, around very bright stars. They're caused by the reflection of light off the supports for the secondary mirror of the telescope; the light source must be fairly bright for this to be noticeable.

UPDATE: Three hours later, the debris field near Shreveport is fading, now only in the S -> SE. However, the field south of Jackson has strengthened considerably from when I first saw it. The Mobile map shows only a few blobs over land (far from where I saw the blobs in the ocean). It's possible that those Seeing how this is weather radar and all.

I had the wrong direction for Mobile. I've fixed it.

UPDATE 2: This site has mirrored the Shreveport radar from earlier in the day. But you know that, 'cause InstaDude told you. Jeff Lawson has some explanatory stuff about the radar. Bet Glenn didn't tell you that! No, only I can tell you that.