According to Space.com skygazers were treated to the unexpected view of a bright and sparkling glow in the sky last Wednesday night. The beautiful trail in the sky looked like a mysterious celestial event.
Was this some strange meteor, on an unidentified flying object, possibly an interstellar vessel from Zeta Reticuli?
Actually it was urine created when astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery dumped waste into space. The water dump was a scheduled task for STS-128 pilot Kevin Ford, who poured out urine and waste water stored aboard the shuttle in preparation for a landing attempt Thursday.
An unusually large amount of water was dumped all at once - about 150 pounds (68 kg), said NASA spokeswoman Kylie Clem. Discovery had just undocked from the International Space Station the day before, and had not been able to unload waste water during the 10-day visit.
"It would have been a large quantity because we don't do water dumps while docked to the station now,"
In general, though, spotting space water dumps from Earth is common, Clem said. Waste water usually freezes upon jettison into a cloud of tiny ice droplets. Then when the sun hits, the ice sublimates directly into water vapour and disperses in space.
A number of people in North America apparently spotted Wednesday's dump, one of them, Abe Megahed, photographed the tail at 9:40 p.m. EDT (0140 GMT) Wednesday from Madison, Wisconsin.
"I just watched the shuttle and station flyover (8:40 PM CST 9/9/09) and was surprised to see that the shuttle was sporting a massive curved plume," he wrote. "What could it be? Something venting? An OMS burn? RCS thrusters? A massive, record breaking urine dump?
While virtually every mystery ends up having a relatively mundane explanation, it does seem a little sad that a visual treat of the astronomical kind was simply water. It’s as if someone s taking the piss....