Friday, 9 February 2018

STARMAN (Falcon Heavy/Tesla Roadster) 2018-017A imaged in Space

click image to enlarge

The image series above shows the Falcon Heavy upper stage 2018-017A, with the Tesla Roadster of Elon Musk and STARMAN attached to it, coasting through interplanetary space towards the orbit of Mars.

At the time these images were taken, 16:39-16:50 UT on 8 February 2018, it was well beyond the moon, at a distance of 550 000 km or about 1.4 Lunar distances c.q. 0.0037 AU. The images are 30-second exposures taken by Peter Starr and me with the 0.43-m F6.8 remote robottic telescope of Dubbo Observatory in Australia

I also created an animated GIF of these images:

These 4 images are part of a lerger seies of images taken from Dubbo and from Q65 Warrumbungle, and they show a clear, slow brightness variation of +- 2 magnitudes between ~+14.6 and +16.6, with a period of perhaps approximately 4m 42s (the dataseries is not very detailed, so the real periodicty might be off from this estimate).

While I did image objects in trans-Lunar orbit before, this is the first time I imaged something on an outbound true interplanetary trajectory.

The trajectory and ephemerids are available on JPL HORIZONS. An early orbit integration I made yesterday before orbit updates from telescopic observations became available, suggests 2018-017A will be close to earth again in 2073. I did not have time yet to redo the integration now telescopic observations are improving the orbit, but will do so later. So stay tuned.

[UPDATE: based on the (thanks to observations like these!) improved orbit, the 2073 close encounter that the initial orbit suggested, is no longer on the table.]

Safe travels, Starman! 

 UPDATE 2: I am quoted in this CNN article, which also features some of my imagery.

image: SpaceX

1 comment:

Kevin White said...

This was a nice gif of the intensity variation as well: