Friday, 31 July 2009

Flaring Keyhole USA 161

Yesterday evening/early night was a night with intermittent very clear skies, and large cumulus fields roving the skies. I was lucky though with the selected targets, although some narrowly escaped the roving cloud fields only. I observed 3 Keyholes (USA 129, USA 161 and USA 186) and Lacrosse 3.

USA 129 (96-072A) was imaged low in the sky in a small gap between clouds. USA 186 (05-042A) was imaged in twilight and the trails were rather faint. It briefly flared to mag. -1, before the camera was open, at roughly 22:59:50 UTC.

USA 161 ((01-044A, a Keyhole high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite, like the other two USA objects mentioned) also briefly flared to -1 a few times. It did so twice while the camera was open, at 23:28:13.40 UTC and 23:30:17.15 UTC, resulting in the pictures below:

(click images to enlarge)

The second image yielded this brightness profile, with the flare saturating at the peak:

(click diagram to enlarge)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

USA 186 and IGS 1B

Friday evening saw very clear skies during twilight. Unfortunately, it got clouded soon after. This meant I was prevented from targetting a nice pass of the STSS-ATRR rocket (09-023B) and USA 161 (01-044A). I did image the Keyhole USA 186 (05-042A) however, in deep twilight, obtaining three positions. This object recently (July 15) made a small manoeuvre.

Yesterday was a repeat of the day before: clear at the start of the evening, but clouded out after midnight. Again I missed out on USA 161 and the STSS-ATRR rocket. I did manage to catch the defunct Japanese radar spy IGS 1B (03-009B), obtaining six positions. It was bright while ascending through Ophiuchus in the south, then faded somewhat, became quite bright again while crossing Draco and then faded quickly beyond visibility. Visually, at moments the object was slightly and quickly fluctuating in brightness in irregular fashion. Some of that fluctuation can be seen in the right-hand part of the brightness diagram below, derived from one of the images (top).

(click images to enlarge)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

ISS yesterday

Yesterday in twilight, I shot this image of a fine pass of the International Space Station:

(click image to enlarge)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-127 in deep twilight (footage)

Yesterday at 22:30 local time (20:30 UTC), in deep twilight with the sun barely 5 degrees below the horizon, I watched a very fine near-zenith pass of the Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-127, launched Wednesday. It was bright, being easily visible against the bright blue sky (where only Vega and Arcturus were readily visible). I estimate it must habe been between mag. -1.5 and -2.5.

I filmed part of the pass with my Canon EOS 450D photo camera tethered to my laptop, using 'EOS Camera Movie Record' software (that software basically taps the live view signal of the camera, enabling to "film" with it). Here is some footage, showing it pass near Vega (in the top of the screen). The original movie file is much better quality than this crappy YouTube version by the way (and Blogspot did not want to upload the video alas):

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The STSS-ATRR rocket

Wisps of thin clouds filled the sky this evening. These killed any chances of seeing the Shuttle STS-127 and its tank 20 minutes after launch, which would enter eclipse at < 10 degrees above the western horizon.

Later that night, around 00:46 local time, I observed the STSS-ATRR rocket (09-023B), now very near decay. Moving from Cassiopeia through Cepheus, Cygnus and into Ophiuchus, it gradually brightened to mag. +2. It was 1.7s late and about 0.09 degree off-track relative to Ted's 09196.16581104 orbit: so close to decay, the orbit is changing very fast.

The wisps of clouds produced a somewhat eerie picture, shown below, with the rocket moving through Cygnus (bright star near the left trail end is Deneb).

(click image to enlarge)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Keyhole USA 161

Yesterday evening started cloudy, with rain showers. As a result, I missed the splendid NLC display as seen from Belgium and the southern and eastern Netherlands.

After midnight it cleared, and this allowed me to capture the Keyhole satellite USA 161 (01-044A) again. It was nicely on time. A bright mag. 0 stray, which turned out to be the Russian r/b 84-072B, made a similar trajectory 3 minutes earlier.

Below image shows the Keyhole (01-044A) crossing the Milky Way in central Cygnus (I pushed the levels and contrasts of this image a bit in Photoshop to bring out the Milky Way better).

(click image to enlarge)

Monday, 13 July 2009

ISS and Progress chasing each other

This evening I finally was able to see the ISS and the recently decoupled Progress M-02 M (09-024A) cargoship chasing each other over the sky. The couple was some 20 degrees apart, with the Progress leading. A very neat sight.

The Progress was around +2.5 to +3, ISS attained about -3.5 and was distinctly orange. The photo below shows the couple while still low in the sky, ascending in the west.

I also observed USA 161 (01-044A) passing east some 10 minutes later.

(click image to enlarge)