Sunday 4 May 2014

Imaging SWARM A and C

On 22 November 2013, ESA launched SWARM, a group of three futuristically looking scientific satellites (2013-007A, B and C) whose purpose is to map the strength, variation and structure of the Earth's magnetic field. Two of the three operate as a close pair in a similar orbital plane at 460 km altitude, the third at 530 km altitude will eventually orbit at an angle to the orbit of the other two (the orbital plane is currently still quite similar, but that will change over the coming years).

The satellites look like a cross between a techno aardvark and a vacuum cleaner:

image credit: ESA

On the night of May 3-4 I was taking images with the EF 2.0/35mm wide field  in an attempt to recover KH-11 USA 224. I did not recover USA 224 but my images showed a number of objects. Including a serendipitous catch of the SWARM A & C duo (2013-007B & C) crossing through Cygnus near 23:32:02 UTC.

click image to enlarge

The yellowish whisps in the image are clouds. SWARM C shows a bright flare near the start of its trail, then the brightness suddenly drops. SWARM A is faint.

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