Monday, 29 February 2016

Imaging North Korea's new Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite, and the flash period of its UNHA-3 rb


Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 on 28 Feb 2016
(click image to enlarge)

North Korea's recently launched new satellite (see a  previous post), Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 (KMS-4: 2016-009A), is finally starting to make visible evening passes here at Leiden.

Yesterday evening, 28 Feb 2016 near 19:45 UT (20:45 local time), I shot the image above, one of two images showing the satellite passing near the Celestial pole. It is a short exposure of 2 seconds with the 2.8/180 mm Zeiss Sonnar lens on my Canon EOS 60D.

Below is the same image, but in black-and-white negative, showing the trail a bit better:

Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 on 28 Feb 2016
(click image to enlarge)

The object is very faint (probably near mag +7). It needs a rather big lens (the Zeiss 2.8/180 mm has a lens diameter of 6.4 cm), which unfortunately also means a small FOV. Over the two images, a total imaging arc of ~6 seconds, it however appeared to be stable in brightness with no sign of a periodicity due to tumble. So either it is not tumbling, or if it is tumbling at all it must be a very slow tumble.

Some 16 minutes earlier, near 19:28 UT, I also imaged the upper stage of the Kwangmyŏngsŏng/UNHA-3 rocket (2016-009B) that was used to launch the satellite. This object is brighter and shows a nice tumble resulting in periodic flashes. Below are crops from three images spanning 19:28:32 - 19:28:44 UT. The brightness variation is well visible (the bright star it passes in the first image is beta Umi):

brightness variation of UNHA-3 r/b 2016-009B on 28 Feb 2016
(click image to enlarge)

A fit to the measured brightness variation over these three images shows several specular peaks at regular intervals, with a slightly asymetric profile:

click diagram to enlarge

The fit shown in red is the result of two combined sinusoids: a major period of 2.39 seconds with a minor period of 1.195 seconds superimposed (resulting in the slight asymmetry). Pixel brightness over the trails was measured with IRIS. The data were fitted using PAST.


UPDATE 1 March 2016:

I imaged both the UNHA-3 r/b and Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 again in the evening of 29 Feb 2016. The sky conditions wer less good, and the pass was much lower in the sky. I used the 1.4/85 mm SamYang lens this time, to get a larger FOV in order to try to capture a larger arc.

KMS-4 was captured on four images (2 second exposures) between 19:19:17 - 19:19:34 UT. It was barely visible on the images, but again the brightness appeared to be stable over this 17 second time span.

The UNHA-3 r/b was also captured, and 3 images (5 second exposures) between 18:58:42 - 18:59:07 UT again showed a very nice flash pattern, fitting (like the observations of Feb 28) a flash period of 2.39 seconds:

click diagram to enlarge


The image below is a stack of these three images. The rocket stage moves from upper right to lower left in the image.

1 comment:

Vitaly Mechinsky said...

Hi, Marco!

What is KMS-4 standard magnitude from your observation?
What software do you use to calculate periods and drow this graphic?

Vitaly.