Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gravity Probe GOCE (Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer) flaring

This evening I tried, for the second time, to capture the ESA gravity probe satellite GOCE (2009-013A) on photograph. My first attempt was on the 17th during a very low pass. This time I tried a 38 degree altitude pass, while it was moving close to mu Hercules.

Much to my excitement, the attempt was succesful, thanks to an unexpected brief flare by the spacecraft due to a reflection of sunlight from probably one of it's solar panel covered sides. I observed the flare visually, estimated it at about mag. +2.5. It shows up well on photograph, the trail fading in and out. Below is the image, shot with a Canon EOS 450D + EF 50/2.5 Macro @ 800 ISO:

click image to enlarge

GOCE (Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer) is a European satellite with the purpose to map the earth's gravity field in high detail. Read more about it on the ESA website here.

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