Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stars Over the Pacific

Scorpio 10 km Over Pacific, Const. Lines
En route to San Francisco from Tokyo on March 27, I woke up in the middle of the night and opened the shade. It was amazing! The sky was inky black, with thousands of stars visible, as well as part of the Milky Way. But what was that bright reddish star? The constellation looked familiar but with so many stars visible, I couldn't be sure what I was seeing. I had to figure out where I was and which direction I was looking, and also estimate the local time.

I used United's flight map to find that I was looking south over Pacific (on right side of the plane heading roughly east), at around the latitude of Oregon (maybe 43 degrees north) and west of Anchorage (about 155 degrees west longitude). It was around 10 am east coast time so maybe around 5 am local where I was, with altitude around 35,000 feet. My PC wasn't handy and I was hoping to go back to sleep (Stellarium would have been helpful), but I did have Starmap on the iPod Touch in my pocket, and that would do the trick.

The constellation was Scorpius, and the bright red star Antares. Flying east at high speed, the onrushing sunrise soon wiped out all the sky objects I could see from my window. It was really cool.

The picture here is from Stellarium, set up for that date, time, and approximate position and altitude.

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