The longest sunset

My flight from London Heathrow to LA set off in the late afternoon. As we were heading west at about 530 mph, we were partially compensating for the rotation of the Earth. That meant that it took the Sun quite a while to set; finally dipping below the horizon when we were somewhere near Greenland. At that point I caught sight of a bright light in the East. I assumed it was a planet because it wasn't twinkling, but as I spotted a few more pin-pricks of light nearby I realised that it was actually the bright star Rigel. I then realised that it wasn't really twinkling because I was at something like 36,000ft so a big chunk of turbulent atmosphere was below me.

I had my camera with me and wondered if I could do some astrophotography. It can be a bit tricky to do a long exposure photograph from a plane as it is moving and shaking and it can be difficult to keep the camera steady. I had a few attempts at a 15 second exposure and the best one is below. I don't think it is too bad all things considered.

The constellation Orion taken from the plane whilst over southern Canada CREDIT: Stuart

The really odd thing about travelling west was that the sunset took a long time to happen and the stars almost seemed frozen in the sky. The sunset sky, blending from orange to dark blue, was beautiful and made even more so by the snow covered mountains and frozen rivers of Canada passing by below.

After finding Orion I was able to find another pin-prick of light stunning in its amber glory. It was Mars; another cold world not too far from the one below.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 23rd Jan 2006 (09:12 UTC) | Permalink
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