Friday 3 September 2010

Hollidays, Ötzi, a Deluge, and USA 179 (SDS 3-3)

For most of the month August, I have been out of the country, to Northern Italy. With my GF I visited Bozen/Bolzano in the Italian part of Tirol, to see Ötzi the glacier-mummie; then made a 2-week backpack hike through the Dolomite mountains, going from refugio (mountain hut) to refugio; and next visited Verona and Venice. In all, a very fine 3-week hollidays!

Shortly after getting back, I managed some limited observations on August 24: USA 186 and the USA 179 r.

Two days later, on the 26th of August, a deluge hit my country including Cospar 4353. An incredible amount (for our country) of precipitation fell: in places thsi amounted to over 140 mm, over 2 times the monthly amount, in only a few hours time. Especially in the east of the country, this led to floods and associated water troubles.

At Cospar 4353, some 60 mm of rain is the monthly normal for August. On the night 25-26 and morning of the 26th, in just 18 hours time, 78 mm of rain was recorded by the pluviometer of my weather station. Most of it fell in an hour time around 9:00 am.

click diagram to enlarge

The days following this deluge, were mostly bad with clouds and rain. I managed to resume observations on the evening of August 30th, taking advantage of a short but bright clearing. Target was USA 179 (SDS 3-3), a US military communication satellite in a Molniya orbit.

As it turned out, the satellite was quite off in position compared to (at that time) a 25 days old elset. It was 3.4 degrees south of the predicted position:

click images to enlarge

image made with Heavensat

I followed the object over the next nights, 31 Aug, 1 Sep and 2 Sep, in order to provide data for an orbital update. On August 31, the object was again snagged during a short but bright clearing, this time in Cepheus and closer to it's apogee. Below is a single image and a stack of the 4 images obtained:

click images to enlarge

Compare the single images of 30 and 31 August, and to the stack of the August 31 to the stack of the September 2 images, all shown here at the same scale (full pixel resolution).

click image to enlarge

The difference in angular speed at different parts of it's orbit is well visible.

Other objects imaged these nights were the STSS Demo 1 + 2 objects; MSX, IGS 1B, and on Sept 1 the Russian Progress-M 06M cargoship that had just been decoupled from the ISS the previous day.

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