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Space shuttle Discovery visible in weekend skies

With its crane still attached, the orbiter Discovery is settled into place behind the external tank and solid rocket boosters on the mobile launcher platform in high bay three of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Carbon County residents may be able to observe the space shuttle Discovery this weekend and during the first part of next week.

"If current predictions hold and the weather cooperates," said NASA Solar System Ambassador to Utah Patrick Wiggins, "we...have an excellent chance of seeing space shuttle Discovery during it's current mission.

On Sunday, Dec. 17, Discovery, still docked with the International Space Station, is expected to rise in the southwest about 6:20 p.m., reaching a point half way up the southeastern sky at about 6:22 p.m. and fading from view as it passes into the shadow of the earth low in the eastern sky at about 6:23 p.m.

The next pass occurs Monday evening when the shuttle, by then undocked from the station, will make a brief appearance half way up the northwestern sky between about 6:42 and 6:43 p.m. followed about a minute later by the space station.

Carbon County's best pass of the current mission will be the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 20, when Discovery will pass out of the Earth's shadow high in the west at about 5:46 p.m., pass nearly overhead about 5:47 p.m. and set in the northeast about 5:49 p.m..

The shuttle and station will look like bright stars moving slowly across the sky and bright enough to be seen even from light polluted urban areas.

Wiggins notes that he always enjoys seeing the space shuttle and space station because he knows "There are heartbeats on board."

For information on where to view the shuttle elsewhere in the sky, sighting information for other areas can be found by following the "See the Space Shuttle" link on Wiggins' Solar System Ambassador website at

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