Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cool as Hell! (Or hot?)

Back in May I came across a wonderful picture of the transit of the Shuttle Atlantis and the HST across the sun, as captured by astrophotographer Thierry Legault.

The little dot you see in quadrant III is the space shuttle and the HST.

I wanted to post a quick little Fermi problem, even though it is not Friday yet:

Determine from the image the rough dimensions of the space shuttle.

Like any good Fermi problem, there seems to be too little information.
And perhaps there is.
So, you are allowed to use your Google-fu to determine how far away the sun is (about 8 light min) or the diameter of the sun. You can also use distance of the moon and recall that its angular diameter in the sky is about that of the sun (that is why we get such nice eclipses).
Perhaps you can look up some basic trig formulas?

There is not "right" way to do a Fermi problem, just way's that make sense.


  1. So, if one just googles the dimensions of the shuttle, is that cheating?

  2. No. Well... you would be cheating yourself out of the fun of doing the problem... so I guess... yes?