Monday, June 06, 2011

NanoSail-D: a brief note on how I construct these brightness curves

Some people have asked me how I get the brightness curves from my images. So here is a brief explanation.

On each image, the satellite has made a trail. Start and end times of the exposure are well known, and the start and end of the trail corresponds to these times.

Next it is as simple as using software (e.g. MaximDL, or IRIS) that can read pixel values along a line: let the software read a line that corresponds to the satellite trail on the image! With MaximDL or IRIS, this is as simple as drawing a line over the screen with your mouse, exactly over the satellite trail. The software then reads the pixel values along this line. The resulting data can be exported as a data table.

These data are then read into a spreadsheet I created, that for each data point interpolates the corresponding time (remember that the time of the first and last datapoint in the dataset is known: start and end of the exposure).

Now, this assumes the movement of the satellite on the image is linear. Strictly speaking, the apparent speed of the satellite is not linear. However, with short exposures (10s) that will not be a really big source of error.

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