Aurora Borealis 2003 special treat

November 24th 2002 space shuttle Endeavour was launced to the ISS. In the crew there was astronaut Don Pettit, whom I had come to know several years earlier. Off the official NASA-tasks we had planned some "spare time" activity trying to photograph auroras simultaneously from the ISS and on the ground. Unfortunately Nov-Dec are very poor months (cloudy) in the SW-corner of Finland and we had hard time to get clear night skies, auroras and ISS-flyby to take place simultaneously. Actually we had already given up when Columbia tragedy took place early in 2003. The next shuttle flight was to fetch Don but now that shuttle was grounded, an extended mission was a must.
I had had opporturnity to get a couple cellular phone calls directly to the spacestation and also earlier a couple of times we had exchanged e-mails almost daily when a photography window had been approaching. So routines were fixed.
Luckily some auroras appeared in the 31st of March 2003 when Don was about to scratch southern skies of southern Finland (my latitude was about 60.3N). See image "ISS-flight" of that moment at about 20:48UT. Watches and timing were checked and the only "variable" was how intense the aurora would be during the 3 minute pass. In this respect we did not get the best - had the flyby been 15-30 minutes earlier we would have had good auroras while now we had to be satsified with something less bright aftermath. But still, we accomplished what we had planned. A couple of weeks later 6 images by Don started slow loading into my computer directly from the space station (through NASA-relay, of course). Below you have three of our hits.





Aurora root 2003       Aurora root 2004

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