Friday, September 18, 2015

Observing Geostationary satellites from Indonesia

(click images to enlarge)

In July-August this year I visited Indonesia, travelling around on the island of Sulawesi and briefly stopping over on Bali on the way back to the Netherlands. It was a special trip, in which I searched for and found the house where my grandparents and father once lived, visited archaeological sites, and in general got  to see wonderful things and got to meet wonderful people.

One of the wonderful things was the night sky - especially at the Togian islands between North and central Sulawesi. A splendid Milky-Way from horizon to horizon (image above), the zodiacal light (image below), and my first good view of the Southern Cross (second image below).

During the stop-over on Bali, I did some limited satellite observations. Geostationary objects that are never visible from the Netherlands and which I normally only get to image using a 'remote' telescope, were the focus.

Unfortunately, the lens I had intended for that purpose, my EF 2.8/100 mm Macro USM, turned out to have been damaged during the trip, to the point that it had become optically clearly faulty. I therefore had to use a decidedly less suited lens, my EF 4.0-5.6/70-300 mm telezoom. As a result, only the brightest geostationary objects did register.

Among the objects that did register were the SDS satellites USA 227 (2011-011A) and USA 155 (2000-080A), the Mentor 2 r/b (1998-029B), and two objects that initially were UNIDS although one of them could later be identified.

The first one was a bright object just north of USA 155, which I earlier had also imaged using a 'remote' telescope. It almost certainly is the communication satellite Milstar 4.

The second UNID was an object in an 7.8 degree inclined GTO  orbit that was clearly trailing in the 30 second exposures (see image below). It does not match any known object. Astrometry and a very approximate orbit for this object are here.

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