Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Spring objects, a Keyhole manoeuvre and a flare of the IGS 5 rocket

After three weeks with cloudy and rainy weather, two consecutive evenings on a row finally allowed observations again on 4 and 5 April.

This is the time of the year that, like spring birds, some object re-appear from their winter hiding: the American KH-12 Keyholes, and the Japanese Intelligence Gathering Satellites (IGS).

Two KH-12 keyhole optical reconnaissance satellites were targetted the past two evenings: USA 129 (96-072A) and USA 186 (05-042A). USA 129 is of special interest these days, as it made a small manoeuvre early april raising it's orbit slightly. I captured it 8 seconds late relative to an early April elset on April 4th. An analysis of the pre- and post-manoeuvre elsets suggest the manoeuvre occurred on April 1st near 04:35 UTC while the satellite was passing the US west coast just after going through it's ascending node.

USA 129 flared to mag. 0 on April 5th, 20:05:08 UTC.

Below is an image of USA 129 rising through patchy thin clouds in Leo on April 4th, and it's sister craft USA 186 moving low in the east though Bootes on the same evening around the same time:

click images to enlarge

I also got my first images of this year of the Japanese IGS, optical and radar satellites. The defunct IGS 1B (03-009B) was imaged on April 4 and 5, and flared briefly to mag. 0 at 21:21:15 UTC on April 5 with a distinct orange colour. On April 5, the IGS 5A craft (09-066A) was imaged by me for the first time.

Below is an image of IGS 1B shot on April 4th:

click image to enlarge

I also captured the rocket from the 09-066 (IGS 5) launch: IGS 5r (09-066B). It shows flaring behaviour, as can be seen below from the photograph and the detail image, with the resulting brightness profile below that. The main brightness maximum in the image occurred at 21:44:06.9 UTC (April 5).

click images to enlarge

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