Thursday, April 19, 2007

Flare Galore! And IGS 1B tumbling?

Flare Galore this evening! Three objects were observed flaring: keyholes USA 186 (05-042A), USA 129 (96-072A), and Lacrosse 4 (00-047A).

The USA 186 flare was spectacular, see the image below. It was a complex double flare. First it very slowly flared to mag. -1.5, peaking round about 20:53:00 UTC. When it was still fading from that flare, a second very short flare was seen at about 20:53:11 UTC. This flare terminated very suddenly, the sat becoming faint in an instance.

Below image shows it all. The peak of the first -1.5 flare coincides more or less with start of the exposure and is at down left (movement is from down left to upper right). The second flare can be seen at upper right. It ended very abruptly with the sat going to naked eye near-invisibility almost at an instance. update (19/04/07): the faint trail extension I thought was real, turns out to be an image artifact.

(click images to enlarge)

Shortly after this, USA 129 flared as well, albeit more modest than USA 186 ten minutes earlier. It reached about mag. +1 at 21:03:30 UTC. The image below shows it fading directly after the flare peak.

(click image to enlarge)

The third flare of this night was produced by Lacrosse 4, and predicted to me by Philip Masding. His prediction was for 21:37:34 UTC: it flared at 21:37:37 UTC. It was a modest flare only. The image is below, the brightness modestly peaks in the second part of the trail.

(click image to enlarge)

This evening I finally successfully observed and captured IGS 1B (03-009B), the Japanese radar satellite that recently reportedly failed. It made a shadow exit at 23:52:50 UTC and was of mag. +2 immediately following that. In the next minute it slowly, irregularly but clearly varied in brightness with an amplitude of about 0.5 to 1 magnitude.

This is quite unlike its steady brighness in past years, so it appears that after the power failure its attitude is now out of control and it is tumbling.

In the image below it is fading, shortly after the end of the exposure it shortly gained brightness again.

(click image to enlarge)

In addition to this all I also watched and photographed a fine pass of the International Space Station around 20:32 UTC, and spotted and photographed a bright stray object near 20:51 UTC while waiting for USA 186: I still have to identify this object as I have not measured that image yet.

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