Wednesday 9 September 2009

A keyhole flare, and an SDS-3 satellite (USA 198)

Last two evenings were clear. On September 7th I watched and imaged the KH-12 Keyhole USA 129 (96-072A), together with my neighbour who saw her first Keyhole this way.

On September 8th I imaged both USA 129 and another KH-12 keyhole, USA 186 (05-042A). USA 129 briefly flared to mag. +0.5 at 20:49:21.7 UTC. Below is the image, and the brightness profile (the image saturates near the flare peak). In the same image, slightly below and to the right, another faint trail can be seen: this is a rocket stage, 08-049B, from the launch of a Thai communication satellite in 2008, launched from Russia with a Dnepr rocket, a converted ICBM.

click images to enlarge

I also imaged two high altitude objects: again the USA 144/Misty-2 decoy (99-028C, see my post here and here) and USA 198 (07-060A), an SDS-3 communications satellite in a Molniya orbit. One of the tasks of this type of satellite, is believed to be the relay of data from the Keyholes to ground stations.

click image to enlarge

Below animated GIF shows USA 198 as a moving object (moving from left to right) just right of the frame center:


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