Thursday, September 30, 2010

BWGS meeting, 26 September 2010, and 2010 observations so far

I. The BWGS meeting

On September 26, 8 members of the BWGS (the Belgian Satellite Workgroup, which also includes the active Dutch observers) including this author gathered in Brugge at the home of Tristan Cools for the annual BWGS meeting. As usual the meeting was quite informal, with a few small talks and a lot of banter.

from left to right: Tristan Cools (B), Kurt Dequick (B), Kurt Jonckheere (B), Koen Geukens (B), Bram Dorreman (B/NL), Wim Holwerda (NL), Leo Barhorst (NL). Not in the picture, the author (NL).

BWGS chair Bram Dorreman giving a presentation on the new PNAS database

Bram Dorreman did a presentation on the newly established PNAS (Photometric Notes on Artificial Satellites) that will complement the PPAS database of flash records. The PNAS will record 'anecdotal' observations of single flares and usunusual brightness behaviour of satellites. As an example, Bram showed how he cooperates with meteor observer Jean-Marie Biets to identify satellite flares captured by Biets' all-sky meteor fireball camera, and includes these data in the new PNAS.

The author did a presentation on the techniques he uses for photographic position determination (and occasionally brightness behaviour determinations) on classified satellites and other objects of interest. As part of it, he also presented some statistics of the past 9 months of observations (see more below), as an illustration of the results gathered.

Kurt Jonckheere next showed photographs and video of his trip to Florida in April, where he and his family watched the night launch of Space Shuttle STS-131. He shot some marvelous imagery of the afterglow of the exhaust plume. Following this, Tristan showed some footage of a Soyuz launch (carrying Belgian astronaut Frank de Winne) from Baikonur some years ago.

Koen Geukens presented a number of video segments of his trip to Pe├źnemunde, the WWII center of German early rocket development (including the V-1 and V-2). The place where once Wernher von Braun's desk stood, is now a wilderness of trees and rubble.

Kurt Dequick followed with some images of French V-2 and V-1 launch sites.

II. Some statistics of the past 9 months

As mentioned, I presented something on my positional observations. As part of it, for illustration purposes, I ran some quick statistical overviews of my observations this year so far.

from January to the 3rd week of September 2010, I produced 872 position determinations, 774 of these on classified objects (and the rest on accidental non-classified strays captured in my imagery, or special interest objects such as Space Shuttles and Progress spacecraft). It concerned positions on 34 different classified objects plus 58 non-classified objects.

Of the classified objects, 28 were payloads, 4 rocket boosters, and two where it is unclear what they are (for example the USA 144 "decoy", 99-028C). It concerns payloads and r/b in LEO (21), MEO (4), HEO (6) and GEO (3).

Below diagram gives a breakdown of the number of observed nights (evenings, usually) and the number of position determinations done per month. My hollidays in August are well visible as a pronounced dip in the statistics.

click diagram to enlarge

Below shows, just for fun, an RA/DEC plot of all positions gathered. My summer observations of geostationary objects are visible below 0 degrees declination: the clustering of positions at various spots elsewhere in the diagram is due to me preferably pointing the camera to areas with easily identifiable grouplets of bright stars.

click diagram to enlarge

Below is a list of the classified objects observed these first 9 months of 2010:

click list to enlarge



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