Some early frames were dropped out and the first four shown here represent about two seconds of real time. However, frames 5 through 14 were consecutive - no frames were dropped. So the sudden brightening and dimming took place very quickly. At thirty frames per second, these 10 frames represent about 1/3 of a second of real time. Visually, it was as though a camera flash had gone off.

My first thought was that something had exploded, but I didn't verbalize it to Pat. I saw it through the camera viewfinder, but she saw the same thing with her unaided eyes. Our local time was between 5:53 - 5:55 PST - Pat was holding a radio-controlled clock that's synchronized with NIST's atomic clock. We first acquired the approaching shuttle at 5:53 and the bright flash was about 1 minute later - a few seconds after the orbiter had crossed our meridian and was starting to dim as it receded from us. That's why the flash was so unusual. We expected it to just grow dimmer - not flare up.


All images are Copyright 2003 Charles & Pat Briley