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   Undertoad  Monday Feb 3 12:26 PM

2/3/2003: Weather radar sees Columbia debris



It's the IotD's first animated image.

This has been widely seen on the net since yesterday, and probably half of you all have already seen it. It's here for the folks who haven't.

If the radar shows the equivalent of the strongest storm on record, why did 99.9999% of the people on the ground feel nothing? Turns out the whole system is set up to watch for water and water vapor, and the debris of the shuttle body is much more reflective to radar.

(The green speckles around the center are haze, and you can ignore them.)

Pity: any time code information is missing, so we don't know what time period is covered here. But the numbers on the left are miles, telling us that to the "eye" of the weather radar, the plume and debris was about three miles wide, about twenty miles long, and lasted for quite a while.

Stupidity: Philly local news teased video of this animation with the line "See what the disaster looked like from outer space!" Like most local news teases, that statement is blatantly wrong. The image is shown from the perspective of above, as if you might be seeing something from space; but this is what it looked like from radar equipment on the ground. From space, it wouldn't look anything like this.

It's easy to see how casual errors like this are introduced into the local news: a newsroom flunkie producer watched the video and wrote something off the top of his/her head. It's probably not that the science education is lacking enough that the copy writer wouldn't know the difference; it's just that getting the copy accurate is not a high priority. A higher priority is writing exciting copy that will keep the viewers around through the commercial break.



Undertoad  Monday Feb 3 02:07 PM

More information. Apparently the shuttle began its actual breakup well before the first frame here caught anything - in fact, it was further west than Dallas. But it was travelling so fast that the debris didn't reach the point where weather rader would catch it until it got this far.

So the left-most point of red in this image is NOT the place where the accident began; it actually began far to the left, off the frame in fact.



SubSub  Monday Feb 3 03:50 PM

Quote:
If the radar shows the equivalent of the strongest storm on record
Except, as someone who grew up in Texas, and for whom watching the storms roll across the weather radar was a form of entertainment(no, really), that's about the same size of most of the spring squall lines. Except they're usually green and yellow, instead of that intense.

And that's definitely more than three miles. (Texas is rather big.) I'm wondering if the numbers are minutes of latitude.


hot_pastrami  Monday Feb 3 04:12 PM

Speaking of stupidity...

Yes, writing copy is not a high priority. As illustrated in this screenie from CNN. 18 times the speed of LIGHT!!?

Star Trek - 1
Einstein - zip




xoxoxoBruce  Monday Feb 3 04:44 PM

Not to worry. Bush is going to throw half a billion dollars at it to make everything all better.



MaggieL  Monday Feb 3 04:59 PM

Re: Speaking of stupidity...

Quote:
Originally posted by hot_pastrami
Yes, writing copy is not a high priority. As illustrated in this screenie from CNN. 18 times the speed of LIGHT!!?
Well, that's probably the same typing monkey that had the speed of Columbia at the time data was lost as "Mock 18".


dave  Monday Feb 3 05:30 PM

He got a job at CNN after he left MSNBC for the "Nigger Innis" ordeal.



Joe  Monday Feb 3 06:07 PM

damn you beat me to it

MaggieL and I saw the same "mock" number. In the midst of tragedy, I busted a gut thinking some newsman really had a sense of humor. I probably would have expelled my coffee out my nose had I seen the "light" number.

Makes you wonder what else they routinely screw up on the local channels.



hot_pastrami  Monday Feb 3 07:18 PM

CNN strikes AGAIN

This one has since been fixed on CNN's website, but attached is a screen grab from earlier today (this is a link from Fark). Notice the caption under the picture... sorry I know it's hard to read:

"Columbia is the second shuttle to be lost since the Challenger exploded 17 years ago"

Second since then? Wow. Must have lost one of those secret shuttles that the shadow government was launching. Morons.

It was at this URL: http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/space/0...eut/index.html



Elspode  Monday Feb 3 11:48 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by Undertoad
More information. Apparently the shuttle began its actual breakup well before the first frame here caught anything - in fact, it was further west than Dallas.
I saw video this morning shot along the California/Nevada border that showed debris coming off even that far West. There was another report from an astronomer in California who report visually observing a similar event.

Things started falling off early in the descent, apparently.


ignatius  Monday Feb 3 11:57 PM

One of the news channel tickers on Saturday had the shuttle altitude as 200,000 miles over Texas- yowzaa!



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