An ordinary space shuttle launch (apparently) shot a blue laser at the Moon

This photo was taken back in 2001, during a launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. On the left is the space shuttle's launch plume. On the right is the plume's shadow. So why is it pointing straight at the Moon?

An ordinary space shuttle launch (apparently) shot a blue laser at the MoonS

The effect is even more dramatic when you can see the entire launch plume. Somehow, out of that chaotic mess of smoke, comes a shadow that points straight at the Moon. This isn't the sort of thing you could see at just any space shuttle launch. Instead, this is one hell of an amazing coincidence, as a NASA astronomer explains:

In early 2001 during a launch of Atlantis, the Sun, Earth, Moon, and rocket were all properly aligned for this photogenic coincidence. First, for the space shuttle's plume to cast a long shadow, the time of day must be either near sunrise or sunset. Only then will the shadow be its longest and extend all the way to the horizon. Finally, during a Full Moon, the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the sky. Just after sunset, for example, the Sun is slightly below the horizon, and, in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above the horizon. Therefore, as Atlantis blasted off, just after sunset, its shadow projected away from the Sun toward the opposite horizon, where the Full Moon just happened to be.

Via NASA.