By Phil Plait | July 13, 2011 11:30 am

This picture of Atlantis approaching the International Space Station made me laugh:

That is all.

[UPDATE: OK, maybe that isn’t all. A lot of people don’t get why this picture made me laugh; I thought it looked funny because it overflows the frame and is upside-down compared to how we usually see it. It’s cute. As for the title, how do bats sleep?]

Credit: NASA


Comments (39)

  1. Joey

    That is a real workout for the eyeballs.

  2. bigjohn756

    It also looks a little like the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 in a way, a little bit, maybe, kinda.

  3. T

    She looks like a bird happy to be flying again….only to have her wings clipped as soon as returning to the next next week. Fly Atlantis, FLY!!!! *sniff* Going to miss you….

  4. Gonçalo Aguiar

    I didn’t get it.

  5. Jessica Entis

    Sorry, I’m not following…I keep looking for something bat-shaped? It’s a cool photo though :)

  6. James H. (south of Dallas)

    I had to flip it upside down, I wasn’t seeing that right.

  7. marc

    you just have to post anything.
    is this a kind of OCD?

  8. Yoweigh
  9. Surgoshan

    I think that the tip of the shuttle’s nose maybe looks a bit like Batman’s cowl and the bottom is his cape? Maybe.

  10. L Fuller

    Well, the nose of the shuttle seems to have an evil jack o’ lantern face on it. Add to that the open bay doors, etc, could look a bit like a bat.

    Oh, Surgoshan basically said the same thing. Well, my vote is with Surgoshan!

  11. RCSI

    *squints* Nope, still don’t see it.

  12. Peptron

    Maybe Phil Plait is doing his impersonation of Edward Nigma?

  13. Jason

    I see it! Since its upside down it looks similar to a bat in flight. The nose you can picture as being the bats head.

    Edit: Oh ya it helps if you do not enlarge the picture. Also take a step back from the screen.

  14. Josephus Hap

    You are looking at a funeral coach.

  15. Ala'a

    Ignoring the bit at the bottom coupled with a twist of imagination, the image conjures up the inside of Rama … You know, from the Arthur Clarke novel(s) 😀

  16. Thomas Siefert

    I see Darth Vader as seen from above, or possibly Dark Helmet from Spaceballs.

  17. Nemo

    I think we need more here Phil. I have no idea why you titled this “Batlantis” or why it made you laugh.

  18. Josie

    How about some real Shuttle porn?
    It wasn’t until i saw this pic:

    that I could start to have a mental visual of how the Shuttle mates to the ISS. Even that pic leaves me wanting.

    Is there a series of photos or diagrams that show the docking process with closeups of the connection?

  19. I feel like I’m on the outside of an inside joke.

  20. Looking at just the nose cone, the slightly darker area looks like a big smile. And that reminds me of

  21. Joe

    All I see is another painful reminder of our nation’s abandonment of a manned space program.

  22. Mike

    It took me a while to get that… but if you remove the white section of the shuttle from the photo it indeed does look like a bat. Good eye-brain coordination!

  23. There is a persistent optical illusion in that picture; when you look at the nose cone, the “underside” of the orbiter seems to sweep toward the viewer. Can’t shake it even after prolonged viewing.

    Like these footprints. Depth cues are thrown off by unusual lighting.

  24. John Sandlin

    Not seeing the humor. Way cool picture, but it doesn’t make me laugh. Maybe a bit of a tear in the corner of my eye knowing that’s the last back-flip maneuver, but no laugh. What ever it is, I don’t see it.

    No pareidolia for me, or whatever it is.


  25. QuietDesperation

    That bat looks like a space shuttle.

  26. Keith Bowden

    The White Shuttle Rises.

  27. Rory Kent

    The nosecone looks more like a terrifying pumpkin smiling.

  28. Josie

    Ok a coworker just sent me this awesome pic of a father and son watching the first and the last Shuttle launches together:


  29. Richard Carnes

    It looks like an upside down seal with a “pull-plug” on the side to let the air out…

  30. Grand Lunar

    Really don’t see what you see, Phil.

    Maybe I’m too practical, because all I see is a cool spacecraft that will be grounded before her time!

  31. Lost me too. As a Batman and Shuttle fan, I just don’t see it.

  32. Eris

    I don’t get it either.

    But I do like it because it shows the shuttle from a perspective that we don’t get a lot. There’s a strong bias to show things “right side up” in photos, but in space, there is no obvious “up” or “down”. Seeing the shuttle like this helps drive home that point.

    And yes, I always enjoy the extremely rare moments in sci-fi films where two spaceships meet each other and they are _not_ oriented the same way. How rare is that? I can’t even name one. I think that when the Enterprise first meets up with the Klingons in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country the ships are not aligned with each other, but I’m not sure.

  33. Mick

    Q: What’s the last thing Space Joker sees before Batlantis kicks his lights out?

    A: See above photo

  34. George

    I must have a very dirty mind…….

  35. alfaniner

    It reminds me of a classic comic panel of a shot looking down from the top of the Eiffel Tower at Batman climbing it, cape billowing.

  36. sjc345


    Well, at least that’s what I see…

  37. Dark Jaguar

    Huh… You’re an odd duck Phil.


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