Images and video of ESA's Space Cargo Ship ATV-4 'Albert Einstein' over Leiden
ESA successfully launched its 4th cargoship ATV-4 Albert Einstein from Kourou last night at 21:52 UT, loaded with cargo destined for the International Space Station ISS.
Following the launch it made two visible passes over Leiden, the first of these two hours after launch at 23:47 UT (1:47 am local time) and a second in morning twilight at 1:20 UT (3:20 am local time). The sky was clear and I could observe both passes well.
I used both my Canon EOS 60D photocamera and my WATEC video camera to image the passes. Above is a photograph shot during the second pass (1:21 UT), showing the ATV descending over the old historic Observatory of Leiden. The image is a stack of 8 images of 5 second exposure each, taken in rapid succession. The lens used was an EF 2.8/24mm.
Below is a video shot during the first pass at 23:47 UT. The ATV, faint at first but then quickly becoming quite bright, can be seen ascending just right of the house in the opening shots:
Note how from 50 seconds in the video onwards, TWO objects are visible: a fainter object (about magnitude +4) is leading the ATV by a few seconds. This is the Ariane upper stage. It is also visible on the photograph below, taken with an EF 2.0/35mm lens:
ATV-4 was very bright on both passes and easily seen by the naked eye: magnitude +1 on the first pass and +0.5 on the second. It moved quite fast, being in a low orbit at an altitude of about 280 km.
In fact, ATV-4 made a third pass this nigh only 20 minutes after launch, near 22:12 UT (00:12 local time). As it was not entirely clear whether the ATV would be in earth shadow or illuminated during this pass (this early in the launch it is at still very low altitude, below 150 km) I did watch, but as expected it was in earth shadow and not visible.
Below are two more pictures from the 23:47 pass. One shows the ATV ascending in the west, close to the Coma berenices cluster. The second one shows it descending in the east, and shows two other (unrelated) objects: and old Russian Soyuz r/b, and the US military satellite NOSS 2-3 E.