It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s STS 119.

by Gabrielle DeMarco on March 19, 2009

No, this isn’t the pit crew for Rensselaer’s Formula SAE racecar.  This is the NASA flight team for the space shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 mission, which several Rensselaer students, faculty, and area amateur astronomers saw burning through the atmosphere March 15 from our own Hirsch Observatory.

Several stargazers were lucky enough to see the nighttime launch from the recently remodeled observatory. They were able to see the shuttle hurtling through space with fire spewing from its engines and accelerating as it broke over the horizon. They even had the opportunity to see another man-made heavenly body, the International Space Station, looming overhead a few minutes later. The two crafts will be rendezvousing in the near future to drop off a member of the flight crew at the station and bring another brave astronaut back to earth.

The Hirsch Observatory holds a public open house every Saturday night from 8 to 10 p.m. It is one of the only observatories in the area that is open to the public, hosting 800 – 1,200 visitors each year. Kids, students, Star Trek fans, and members of the community are all invited to see some neighboring nebulae and take a visual walk on the moon.

Check out a video of the launch from the Kennedy Space Center for the full effect. Turn up the speakers.