Monday 29 September 2008

Goodbye ATV-1

The ATV-1 "Jules Verne", Europe's first cargo craft to the ISS, was de-orbited over the Pacific today. The past weeks it flew solitary, for experiments. Last Thursday I could see it for a last time, and I shot this picture of it:

(click image to enlarge)

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Short observing break (partly due to camera defect)

Short observing break here. Several reasons: apart from it being overcast the past three days, it includes that;

- I am working on a double lecture (Friday on my own university, next week in York);
- and am having to deal with a camera defect.

The camera defect is small but fatal for shooting the night sky: for some reason (loose electronic contact?) the wire-release no longer works when the camera is pointed upwards....

So if I am able to observe early next week and after I return from York, it will probably be the good old visual way with the ETX-70 telescope and stopwatch for a while.

Sunday 14 September 2008

Rich batch of objects

The night of 13-14 September was a very clear one. The near-full moon was low in the sky and the sky very transparent.

I hauled a rich batch of objects, including 8 positions on the KeyHole USA 129 (96-072A), the Lacrosses 4 & 5, (00-047A & 05-016A), and the NOSS duo's 3-1 and 3-2 (01-040 A & C, 03-054 A & C).

USA 129 made a magnitude 0 flare at 20:19:20 UTC. The descending part of the flare was captured on photograph.

(click images to enlarge)

Monday 8 September 2008

Andromeda Galaxy

Finally came to process some images I made after my satellite observing session of September 1st. Stacking 58 images with an exposure time of 15 seconds each, resulted in the image of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, below. The camera (Canon EOS 450D @ 800 ISO) was mounted "piggyback" on my small Meade ETX-70, the lens was the EF 50/2.5 Macro @ F2.8 which I also use for the satellite pictures.

(click image to enlarge)

Saturday 6 September 2008

Flares, strays and spy sats

The evenings of September 1st and 3rd saw a nice catch of satellites. My new camera system (Canon EOS 450D + EF 50/2.5 Macro) really is a sat magnet, which is also apparent by the number of strays captured in images with classified objects.

Objects imaged these nights include the KeyHole satellites USA 129 (96-072A) and USA 186 (05-042A), the SAR sats Lacrosse 4 & 5 (00-047A and 05-016A), and the Japanese sats IGS 1A and IGS 1B (03-009A and 03-009B).

IGS 1A is an example of a sat that would normally be beyond reach of my older camera system, but is well within reach now. The KeyHoles are captured much more easily now too.

Moreover, the quality of the positions obtained seems to be better. This is due to both the better image quality (less ambiguity in the start and end of the trails, as the images are much less noisy and the trails brighter), and to a much better, consistent timing behaviour of this camera.

Because of the more narrow field of the EF 50/2.5 Macro lens, I employ the laser (the same I use for pointing my telescope) to point the camera. Below is a photograph of what this looks like (although in reality the beam is less bright visually: this is the result of a 10 second exposure). Stars visible are from Cassiopeia and Perseus, with the double cluster visible just beneath the laser beam.

(click image to enlarge)

On September 1st, I watched Lacrosse 5 (05-016A) together with my neighbour. It was nice and bright, and did it's infamous "disappearance trick" while just past the zenith. I had just been explaining this peculiar behaviour to my neighbour, so he got a nice demonstration!

Some nice flares were captured too these evenings. Below images show a mag. -8 flare of Iridium 72 on 3 Sep 20:15:29 UTC, and a brief mag 0 flare/glint by KeyHole satellite USA 129 (96-072A) at 20:33:34 UTC on the same evening. The curtain-like structure on the Iridium image is due to a moving patch of clouds.

(click images to enlarge)

Several strays were captured as well, mostly spent Russian rocket boosters.