This is a series of Photoshop enhanced images of Space Shuttle Columbia. The original from NASA is at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/investigation/sensors/107_bw_2_07.jpg
According to NASA "This image is a view of the underside of Columbia during its entry from mission STS-107 on Feb. 1, 2003, as it passed by the Starfire Optical Range, Directed Energy Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, N. M. The image was taken at approximately 7:57 a.m. CST (1357 GMT). This image was received by NASA as part of the Columbia accident investigation and is being analyzed."
It's difficult to envision the shuttle's orientation at this point without a 3-D model overlay. Columbia does appear to be nose up, banking left. This would explain the slight loss of bilateral symmetry.
What's most interesting is, of course, the left wing: there is some break in the wing's smooth leading edge close to the fuselage. It's been described in the press as evidence of "damage" to the wing. But once enhanced, the roughness on the leading edge of the wing seems unlikely to be "damage"... i.e. a piece of the wing missing. If one follows the leading edge of the wing from the wingtip back to the fuselage... the anomaly looks more like two protrusions from that straight edge.
It is unlikely any thing could protrude forward of the wing's leading edge... especially at Mach 18. But the anomaly is in the area of the shuttle's landing gear. Given the apparent angle of the shuttle... the protrusions might very well be the prematurely/partially deployed landing flap and landing gear. If that's the case the protrusion would not really be extending forward of the leading wing edge... but simply downward from below the wing.
This picture is a very crude approximation based on a scale model. It's close to the proper orientation... but the wings got cropped in the process of image rotation. It's the best I can do for now. What this picture can not reproduce is an angle where the shuttle might have been passed a bit north of the Starfire facility and was a bit downrange.
It shows the landing flaps down and landing gear deployed which if in silhouette as the Starfire image, might create the double protrusion see on the left wing's leading edge.
Whatever the anomalies are... I'm sure NASA has better tools than Photoshop.
NOTE: I've had to pull a few images to prevent exceeding Tripod's hourly bandwidth limits. I've also had to compress the images. Sorry for any inconvenience
IMAGE 2: This image went though a series of Gaussian Blurs, unsharp masks, enlargements, then a final reduction back to 640 X 480 pixels. I don't think I'd be able to replicate whatever I did. I was trying to bring out a small filament that protrudes from the dual anomalies seen on the left wing. This fliament was obiliterated by the cruder adjustments used in other images here. In general the pixelization is still there... as seen in the rough edges of the wings. The filament might be nothing... and I only post it because of its suspicious location. Of course the USAF picture dosen't seem to use a high sampling depth. This could be nothing more than a single pixel with s slightly different value than neighboring ones.
Note also the distinct dual debris streams coming off the left wing. Ablation of the two landing gear tires?
Image 3: This is an example of the Starfire image been softened using Gaussian Blur to a level of 4 pixels. This reduces the crude pixelization in the original Starfire image.
Image 4 settings are maxed out to produce sharpest edges but in the process destroys the finer details. AMOUNT=500% RADIUS=30 Pixels. THRESHOLD=0