Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another case of identity confusement

It must be in the air or something, but yesterday evening I again mixed up two satellites, and again it involved USA 186.

This time, I observed a magnitude zero flare in the zenith at 20:35:10 UTC and mistakenly reported it to the Seesat list as being a flare of USA 186 (05-042A).

In reality, it was another Keyhole, USA 129 (96-072A). USA 186 would pass 10 minutes later along a similar track...

It shows up on two images (both taken after the flare) and yielded 4 positions, the last of which is probably in error.

I also covered two passes of Lacrosse 5 (05-016A). The first pass was a twilight pass and Lacrosse 5 remained "hidden" most of that pass, except for a brief period of maybe 30 seconds after 19:14:10 UTC, when it suddenly appeared just east of Polaris at about mag. +2.5. Lutz reported it was gone again by 19:14:47 UTC.

The second pass saw no disappearance event. Lacrosse 5 was bright and steady, and four photographs yielded 8 positions.

With regard to the night previous to this, I can add a few things. First the confusion between Keyhole USA 186 and the weathersatellite NOAA 14 when the latter was producing a brilliant flare. As can be seen from the following diagram, the two were indeed cruising up very closely at that time, hence why they were so easily confused. At the time of the bright flare which I captured on photograph, they were only 8 degrees apart in azimuth and 0.2 degrees in elevation.

(click diagram to enlarge)

In addition, I can also report that I obtained positions on USA 129 and Lacrosse 5 that night.

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