Friday, April 22, 2011

KH-12 USA 129 flaring: and IGS 1B again

A period of sunny weather commenced the past week, albeit with a trend towards increasing hazyness. I observed on the 19th, 20th and 21st of April, targets being the evening KH-12's USA 129 (96-072A) and USA 186 (05-042A), as well as IGS 1B (03-009B). An attempt to locate the geostationary satellite Mentor 2 (98-029A) on the 20th failed, probably because of the poor observing conditions.

Yesterday evening (21st April) the sky was quite hazy with, during twilight, abundant whisps of thin clouds. USA 129 (96-072A) slowly flared to mag. 0 at about 19:56:15 UTC, and the resulting picture of the flare amidst thin clouds in a still bluish twilight sky, looks very eerie:

click image to enlarge

Some what later, I made this shot of IGS 1B (03-009B) gracefully sailing through Bootes:

click image to enlarge

My story about the re-entry of the above pictured malfunctioned IGS 1B satellite in about a year from now, has been picked up, notably after Jim Oberg reposted it on the NASA Spaceflight Forum here. Two journalists contacted me with questions, and my post itself attracted some US Government attention (when the Executive Office of the President visits your weblog, you know it is being taken serious). So I guess some people have woken up now, and hopefully we will soon see a serious risk assessment and more pertinent information by the Japanese as to the tank content of the satellite.

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