Friday, 23 March 2012

Newly launched ATV 3 cargoship in twilight

This morning at 4:34 UTC, the European Space Agency ESA launched the third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargoship, ATV 3 "Edouardo Amaldi", from Kourou in French Guyana, bringing supplies to the International Space Station.

click images to enlarge

Only 22 minutes later, around 4:56 UTC (5:56 am local time), it made a pass visible from Europe. The ATV was still connected to the Ariane upper stage at that moment. As seen from Leiden, it was a low pass at a maximum elevation of 24 degrees in the S-SE, and in deep twilight: sun at -7 degrees altitude.

Nevertheless it was easily visible by the naked eye around culmination, as a fast and steady mag. 0 to -1 object moving against a bright blue twilight background. The picture above is a 4-second exposure taken with the Canon EOS 450D + EF 2.8/24mm lens, 400 ISO.

Note added 24/03/2012: More observations from following nights, including video of a pass on the 24th, available here.

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