Thursday, 9 August 2012

ENVISAT and other satellites flaring over the Italian Dolomites

During the second half of July, I travelled through northern Italy, including an 8-day mountain hike from mountain hut to mountain hut through the high Alpine parts (up to 2770 m) of the Rosengarten Dolomites. The latter mountains are truely marvelous, and perhaps the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen.

During two clear evenings I did some limited astrophotography: limited, as because of weight considerations I had only two lenses with me  (a Canon EF 100mm Macro and a Tamron 17-50mm zoom) . After all, we already had to carry 16 kg on our backs every day while scaling the mountain.

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The image above was shot at 2238m altitude from Rifugio Vajolet on July 23rd. It shows ENVISAT (02-009A) flaring. Since contact with this legendary Europe remote sensing satellite was lost on 8 April 2012, it appears to have started to tumble. Two brightness maxima (one brighter and one fainter preceding it) are visible on the original of the above 30 second exposure, and other (faint) maxima are visible on an earlier and on subsequent images.

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A 45 image series (30s exposure each) from the same location was used to create the above image of startrails circling the celestial pole. The mountain at right is the 3004m high Kesselk├╝gel.

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A few days earlier (16 July), while at lower altitude (1188m) in Aldein (Aldino) where we visited the nearby Bletterbachschlucht, I shot this image of a double Iridium flare. The brighter of the two is Iridium 63, the other one is Iridium 14. The classified Japanese satellite IGS 7A (11-075A) can be seen as well as a fainter steady trail near the center of the image (the original image has 3 more very faint satellite trails as well). The bright star top right is Arcturus.

All images were made with a Canon EOS 60D at 2000 ISO (and part of image series driven by a programmable timer) using a Tamron 2.8/17-50mm set at 17mm.

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