The fiery descent of Atlantis… in 3D!

By Phil Plait | July 22, 2011 1:56 pm

Well, today is certainly shaping up to be "jaw-dropping pictures of Atlantis day"! How so? Well, I already posted the stunning image of the Orbiter’s descent as seen from space, and just the other day I mentioned how I was hoping Nathanial Burton-Bradford would make more 3D images… so guess what? Get out your red/cyan glasses: here’s the plasma-lit descent of Atlantis as seen from space in 3D!

Wow! The ISS astronauts took several pictures of the Orbiter as it descended. Nathanial took two of them from NASA’s spaceflight gallery and combined them to make this anaglyph. If you click between the two original shots (here and here) you can see they were taken a few seconds apart; the motion of the stars, the Earth, and the plasma plume change a little bit (click between them rapidly and you’ll actually get a feel of the motion. Weird).

The other pictures at the NASA page are amazing as well. Funny, when I first heard of the plasma picture I poked around NASA’s site and couldn’t find any other images, but clearly I either missed them or they weren’t up yet. I’m glad Nathanial dug deeper! In his shot, you really get a sense of how far away the Orbiter was from the ISS. In fact, there is a layered feel to the whole scene, with the stars far away, the ISS in the foreground, and the Earth itself stretched out from below you to the horizon.

If you don’t have red/cyan glasses, this one shot makes it worth the effort. It’s truly amazing. More than just a gimmick, a picture like this really gives you a visceral sense of what you’re seeing. Truly wonderful.

Related posts:

The fiery descent of Atlantis… seen from space!
Atlantis launch in 3D
ISS and Atlantis seen in broad daylight!
Atlantis rises above your monitor

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (14)

  1. Noel

    Where’s the post about Pluto’s 4th moon?

  2. Not sure what it says about me that I have not one but two pairs of 3D glasses withing arm’s reach of my computer. ūüėÄ

  3. KAE

    That’s an amazing image! It reminded me of the NASA “meatball” logo when I saw it.

  4. Wow. :-)

    I saw the Shuttle – and then shortly afterwards the International Space Station – pass overhead under an hour before the Atlantis landed for the final time. Looking like aircraft too far above to be more than points of light at 6.30-40 pm local Adelaide time. Wonder if this was taken then or roundabouts then?

    @1 Noel : Click on my name for a link to that – ‘Pluto has another moon!’ which was posted on the 20th of July 2011* at 8:57 AM by the Bad Astronomer. It’s a page down the list already. You can (almost certainly) also find it via the archives (is it me or should that word have an second ‘e’ in it?) and the search functions or by doing a google search for it.

    Yeah the fourth moon of ice dwarf type planet Pluto was great news – I missed it when it first broke with Real Life taking me offline for a day as well. Same for you?


    * Co-incidentally, the forty-second anniversary of the Eagle landing on Mare Tranquillitatis with Michael Collins orbiting the Lunar moonscapes as the “loneliest man in the world” in the command module Columbia whilst Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to walk on the surface of another world. We could do that in the 1970’s. We could fly seven astronauts at a time and massive payloads like the Hubble telescope and sections of the International Space Station and many spaceprobes until a few days ago. But now we can’t anymore. Sigh.

  5. danny

    I made a version for viewing without glasses:

  6. Zucchi

    What’s the point of a stereoscopic picture of something hundreds or thousands of miles distant? Won’t the view for both eyes be practically identical?

  7. Jag

    Zucchi: Depends on the separation between the two images. The average human eyes are about three inches apart, and with a small separation like that there would be almost no stereo effect. In this case there is a separation of many miles between the two images, because the images were taken sequentially with a single-lens camera. That’s called “hyperstereo”, which exaggerates the sense of depth. Hyperstereo is useful in many different applications. Or just plain fun, like it is with this image.

  8. @ Zucchi and Jag:

    Yes, this is “for effect” only. The real view out the ISS window would look essentially flat. Except, that is, for that instrument boom to the right, which would pop out, or away, in lovely 3-D. Oddly enough, that’s the only element that remains flat in this shot.

    I dunno. These things are kind of like the current (fading) 3-D movie craze. Take movies that were shot flat, manipulate them to create artificial 3-D, and what do you have? Interesting visuals, but…???


  9. Bali

    Nice picture, but bad alignment of the two photos!
    I think it’s best viewed with the head tilted 45 degrees clockwise… and maybe a glass of white wine in the hand.

  10. Zucchi

    Thanks, Jag & Kuhnigget. I guess I don’t get it because I don’t have stereoscopic vision in normal life, so none of the 3d crap works for me.

  11. Thanks Danny. The red/cyan doesn’t work for me, but the cross-eye one does.

    BTW: It looks like the shuttle fell like a rock.

  12. Steve Withers

    This is one of the first things I found after setting up search in Google +.

    What an awesome pair of photos!

    Thanks very much to Nathanial BUrton-Bradford for the R/C anaglyph and thanks also to “danny” for the stereo version. Both are excellent.

    I love 3D.

  13. Matt B.

    I’ve noticed an interesting neurological effect. On a cycle of about 4 seconds I shift between perceiving more with the left eye, and then more with the right. It’s noticeable only with things like this because I can see the color change from red to blue and back.


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