Uh, Houston, We have a time problem Closings cause headaches for space shuttle watchers

November 17, 1995|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

You say you stumbled out of bed early this morning, shuffled out into the cold and dark in your bunny slippers hoping to spot the space shuttle Atlantis flying by, caught your death of a cold and never saw a thing?

Well, blame the government. But don't bother calling. It's closed. A NASA spokeswoman Monday supplied The Sun with the times for spotting the shuttle and the Russian space station Mir from Baltimore. She insisted the times were all Central Standard. So the newspaper added an hour to convert to Eastern time, and published them Wednesday.

An alert reader noticed that one would be after sunrise, and obscurred in daylight. Calls to NASA for clarification were futile. The public information office was closed due to the budget impasse.

Eventually New York's Hayden Planetarium, and one still-functioning NASA computer site, called "Satellite Passes Predictions," confirmed the error.

Below, then, are the correct times for Marylanders to see Atlantis, if weather permits:

* Tomorrow: At 6:09 a.m., Atlantis and Mir should be flying in

close formation after undocking. They will appear 15 degrees above the west-southwest, flying toward the northeast as high as 66 degrees. (The horizon is zero degrees; straight up is 90.) The view should last five minutes.

* Sunday: Watch for Atlantis at 5:14 a.m., 32 degrees above the south-southwest, flying toward the east-northeast. Visible four minutes, it will reach 53 degrees.

* Monday: At 5:53 a.m., Atlantis should appear 19 degrees above the west, flying to a point 15 degrees above the north-northeast, visible four minutes.

* Tuesday: The shuttle should appear 34 degrees above the northeast horizon at 4:49 a.m. Moving downward toward a spot 15 degrees above the horizon, visible for only one minute.

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