Outrunning The Sunset

A week ago I was headed from North Carolina to Los Angeles on an “Oh Dark Thirty” flight and posted a picture of the sunrise catching us somewhere over the southwest United States. I also had mentioned a few days earlier that the trip out from LA to NC had been “an adventure.”

Today the trip back to the East Coast (for this week’s NASA Social and celebration of the 25th anniversary of the launching of the HST, but you knew that) was much more “nominal” and much less “adventurous.” No delays, both flights left on time. No hassles with lost luggage. The flight from DFW to DCA actually got in over thirty-five minutes early. The ride from DCA to my hotel was tedious but cheap.

With the plane tickets being bought on somewhat short notice (I didn’t get the invite to the NASA Social until a couple of days after we were back in LA), I had been told that I would have nothing but center seats. In fact, I got the opportunity to change with someone for an aisle seat on the first flight, and on the second flight I got moved to a window seat.

Even better, it was a window seat with extra leg room, the first one in the cabin. But that meant that I didn’t have my backpack o’ cameras at hand. It was stuffed into an overhead bin instead of under the seat in front of me – there wasn’t any seat in front of me.

As unusual as it might be for me to be on a plane with a window seat and not take any pictures (I take a LOT of pictures!) I figured that it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was cloudy as soon as we took off from DFW, and it was the “boring overcast to the horizon” cloudy, not the “oooh, cool, look at the thunderheads” cloudy. And then it was going to be dark, so what the heck. Time to catch up on some reading during the flight.

And then this happened (and I remembered that my iPhone had a perfectly good camera in it):

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From out behind the wingtip…

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…with the sunset glinting off of lakes…

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…the sun popped out…

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…just in time to set underneath the wing.

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A big lake in the distance and a tiny one nearer to us caught the sunlight…

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…while the sun started to disappear…

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…and finally vanished…

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…leaving in its afterglow a winding river, thunderstorms silhouetted on the horizon…

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…and small towns across the American midwest starting to light up like Earthbound stars.

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