Thursday 31 December 2009

Last observations of the year, and 2009 at a glance

December 2009 saw a lot of clouded sky, a few clear frosty skies, and lots of snow (for our country at least). After my December 6th observations (see previous post) I observed on December 13th (under modest conditions) and December 28th (under good conditions).

Targets imaged were the HEO objects USA 179 (04-034A), USA 184 (06-027A) and USA 198 (07-060A), and the STSS Demo objects (09-052A & B); and the LEO objects Lacrosse 2 (91-017A) and Lacrosse 5 (05-016A).

These are probably my last observations for this year, as today is overcast and tonight will see fireworks. So, what did 2009 bring on the observational front?

2009 was a good year. I observed on 77 nights, obtaining a total of 953 positions (8 visually, 945 photographically). They were spread over the year as follows:

These observations concern 32 different classified objects (both payloads and rocket boosters), plus a number of special-interest non-classified objects such as Space Shuttles, GOCE, and the Iridium 33 wreckage:

click image to enlarge list

Just for fun, I have also plotted all obtained positions on an RA/Declination map:

click image to enlarge

The clustering in certain positions is because I tend to select sky areas with easily recognizable bright star patterns. This helps easy aiming of the camrea, and it also speedens initial star identifications during the astrometric reduction of the images.

Monday 7 December 2009

An unidentified HEO object

Yesterday evening was very clear. I photographed the STSS Demo r/b (09-052C) using the EF 50/2.5 Macro, and then switched to the EF 100/2.8 Macro USM to capture the HEO objects USA 184 (06-027A) and USA 198 (07-060A).

One of the four images capturing the latter, contained an unknown object some 3 degrees south of USA 198. It is a clear trail, similar to that of USA 198 in length and direction. It shows evidence of being the capture of a brief flare. And it doesn't match any known object from the unclassified or classified catalogues.

Below is a detail of the image showing the object (the inset is a 200% blow-up). The trail is about 20 pixels long, or about 3.5'.

click image to enlarge

Friday 4 December 2009

The STSS demo rocket

On November 30, Russel Eberst recovered the "lost" rocket stage 2009-052C from the STSS Demo launch. This allowed Ted to observe it from a preliminary elset in the early hours of Dec 1st, followed by me later that day, and a number of other observers in the days after.

During my observation, thin veil clouds were scattered in the sky, and a bright near-full moon was glowing in the sky. This lead to considerably fogged images. Nevertheless the object showed up on 3 images. It was faint near the zenith and definitely brighter while descending in the east. Below image shows it crossing Andromeda.

click image to enlarge

The object should decay somewhere in April/May 2010 (see here). This means we have another nice fastly evolving orbit to keep track on this winter and spring.

This same evening I tried to capture Lacrosse 2 (91-017A) but failed, due to the object having manoeuvred and hence being late.