New photo technique reveals rocket plumes
Anyone who has witnessed the launch of the space shuttles can't help being impressed by the blinding brilliance of the craft's rocket plumes. The three liquid-fueled main engines and the two solid fuel boosters produce a flame that is almost painfully bright. My reaction every time is that the thing is too ferocious for humans to ride. And yet they do.
And as many times as I've watched launches on TV, the spectacle never comes close to the experience of being there. The flame is muted on the TV screen, just like the thunderous, crackling roar.
The exhaust plume gets washed out in still photos, too, becoming flat and featureless.
But a team of NASA researchers has managed to put together a composite photo technique that can now reveal the contours and details of a rocket plume. Instead of a flat yellow or white, the plume becomes a turbulent storm with ropes of flame and smoke. They tried it out on the final shuttle launch that sent Atlantis into space last month.
Here is a comparison of the new technique (right) and a standard image. Pretty cool. Here's more on how they did it.
(NASA PHOTO: Louise Walker/J.T. Heineck)