Fixed to a tripod and looking east across the Kennedy Space
Center's Turn Basin,
a camera captured these star trails
as a series of short exposures
over a three hour period on the evening of January 23rd.
Positioned just a few miles from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, it also captured a spectacular night
launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's
and Data Relay Satellite TDRS-L.
Creating the trails,
the apparent motion of the stars through the
sky is just a reflection of the daily rotation of planet Earth on its axis.
But that rotation is also the reason the
follows a path arcing east across the Atlantic.
the east, in the direction of Earth's rotation,
adds the rotation velocity to the rocket
and reduces the fuel needed to reach orbit.
A little ironically, TDRS-L is destined for a
From there, 36,000 kilometers or so above the
equator, it's orbital period will match Earth's rotation
and the satellite will hang motionless
in planet Earth's sky.
Mike Killian /