Friday, September 06, 2013

More tracking of USA 245, and being flashed by ALOS

After my observations in the hours after launch on August the 28th and my observations on September 3, I observed the newly launched KH-11 Keyhole USA 245 (NROL-65, 2013-043A) again yesterday evening.

click image to enlarge

It was brighter yesterday than during my previous observations, this time reaching an easy naked-eye brightness. Near 20:38:15 UTC it slowly brightened to mag.+1. Above is one of my images, showing it as it traverses the northern part of Cygnus.

Ten minutes earlier, I observed USA 186 (2005-042A), the KH-11 Keyhole launched in 2005 that USA 245 in time is meant to replace. For the moment, they probably will operate together in the same orbital plane for several years. The image below shows it traversing Cepheus.

click image to enlarge

After observing USA 186 and while waiting for USA 245, a very bright (up to mag. 0), slowly and irregularly flaring object appeared near 20:33 UT. It turned out to be ALOS (2006-002A), the Japanese Earth Observation satellite that malfunctioned in 2011. It evidently is slowly tumbling. Below are two images, showing the irregular brightness variation:

click image to enlarge

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