Exhaust plume from launch of Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-94)

GOES-8 visible image

Java animations: 3-image sequence | 8-image sequence

These GOES-8 Imager data are from the time of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-94) launch (1802 UTC on 1 July 1997). With animation, an exhaust cloud seems to be apparent, starting with the first image after launch (1815 UTC). Two features appear -- a compact, circular cloud (the farthest northeast of the two) moves to the southwest throughout the sequence of images and remains fairly identifiable; the second cloud is very elongated north-south, and also moves to the southwest. This second feature becomes very diffuse and is difficult to distinguish in the later frames (especially with respect to neighboring clouds).

Perhaps the compact circular cloud is primarily from exhaust gases near the surface associated with ignition at the ground. Sea breezes (from ocean to land) at mid-day may be moving that cloud inland (toward the southwest). The general surface flow, however, is from the northwest, as is evident from the small cumulus field motion. The other elongated cloud may be the tracer associated with the exhaust from the rocket as it gains altitude. Although winds aloft start generally from the northwest as well, by 400 mb (7 km altitude), they become more northerly, and even are from the northeast by 200 mb (12 km altitude). So, it may be reasonable that the exhaust trail drifts to the southest. Overall, wind speeds aloft do not appear very strong, on the order of 20 knots (10 ms-1).

Questions or comments may be directed to Gary.S.Wade@noaa.gov

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