Thursday, 27 September 2018

More images of Kounotori (HTV) 7

click image to enlarge

The image above is a stack (combination) of six images, taken at 10-second intervals with a 5-second exposure (Canon EOS 60D + EF 2.0/35 mm, 800 ISO). It shows Kounotori HTV 7 (2018-073A), a Japanese cargoship on its way to the ISS launched on September 22. This image was taken some 17 hours before it berthed to the ISS.

The cargoship was about 1m 38s behind the ISS at the time of observation. As no recent orbital elements were available, I did not know where to expect it relative to the ISS, so I started watching well before the ISS pass, and next noted it ascending over the roof just after the ISS had disappeared in Earth shadow.

The HTV 7 spacecraft was very bright during this pass: near magnitude +1, and a very easy naked eye object. Just like the day before (see an earlier post), it flared brightly, to at least mag -1/-2 at 19:50:18 UT (26 Sep 2018). The flare can be seen on the composite image above, and on the single image from this series below:

click image to enlarge

Also note the distinct orange colour of the trail, which is due to the fact that HTV 7 is wrapped in gold-coloured insulation foil.

The flare happened while HTV 7 was passing through the field of view of my video setup:

The image below is a composite of the images taken while the ISS passed, and the images of HTV 7 passing 1m 38s later (i.e., they didn't move this close in the sky in reality!). The orange colour of HTV 7 stands out. Also well visible is that HTV 7 was somewhat faster than the ISS, due to a difference in orbital altitude (and hence orbital period):

click image to enlarge

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Imaging a pass of Kounotori (HTV) 7 on it's way to the ISS

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On 22 September 2018 (and after several launch delays, amongst others due to a typhoon), at 17:52:27 UT, Japan's Space Agency JAXA launched Kounotori (HTV) 7, a cargoship destined for the ISS. It will dock to the ISS tomorrow on September 27th.

The 9.8 x 4.4 meter HTV (HTV stands for "H-II Transfer Vehicle". The name Kounotori stands for "white stork") are easily visible, bright objects with a distinct orange colour due to the use of gold-coloured insulation foils.  See the image below of HTV 7 being assembled at the Test and Assembly Building at Tanegashima Space Center before launch:

image: JAXA

After days with bad weather, the sky cleared yesterday. I had a low pass in the southwest near 19:18 UT (Sep 25) and went to the nearby city moat with my camera, as I have a better view lower at the horizon there. Some whisps of thin clouds still lingered in the sky.

First, at 19:04 UT, I watched HTV 7's destination, the International Space Station (ISS), sail past as a very bright object. The image below is a stitch of two image stacks (!): one stack of two images, and a stack of 4 images with the camera FOV shifted horizontally. Camera: Canon EOS 60D with an EF 2.0/35 mm lens. I used exposures of 4 seconds at ISO 800.

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Then  I waited for HTV 7. As the latest orbital elements at that point were almost a day old, I was not sure about the exact time it would show up.

Some 14 minutes after the ISS it emerged, clearing the trees and houses low at the southwest horizon, and to my surprise and joy featured a bright flare to at least magnitude -1. My first image just captured the end of this brief flare (first of the two images below):

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The object was easily visible with the naked eye and had an orange hue. The image stack below was made of 5 images taken at 10-second intervals, with each image a 4-second exposure (camera details the same as for the ISS image). It shows HTV 7 from the bright flare to the moment it disappeared in the Earth's shadow:

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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Capturing a flaring NOSS duo (NOSS 3-6)

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On 30 August 2018 near 20:59 UT I was imaging the NOSS 3-6 duo (2012-048A & 2012-048P) during a near-zenith pass, when they briefly flared. They were at a sky elevation of 77.5 degrees at that time.

The image above is a stack of the video frames showing the flaring spacecraft: the flare of the leading P component was captured just before it peaked (I was adjusting the camera FOV during the seconds before it), the flare of the A component was captured in its entirety. Below is the video itself from which these frames were extracted (video shot with a WATEC 902H + Canon FD 1.8/50 mm lens):

I next used LiMovie to analyse the video and extract brightness curves from the video frames, with the following results. The data points shown are 3-point averages of the raw data. small discontinuities visible in the curves are where the satellite passed a star:

click diagram to enlarge

click diagram to enlarge

The leading P component seems to exibit only one flare peak. The traling A component shows an interesting  double or tripple peak. The centroids of the peaks of the P and A component were some 6.5 seconds apart.

In the diagram below, I have transposed both curves on each other by shifting the curve for the A component along both axes untill it matches that of the P component:

click diagram to enlarge

What can be seen is that the curve for the A component pre- and post-peak follows the pattern of that of the P component, but unlike the P component it shows a pronounced valley at the peak, with a small secondary peak in the valley bottom. The shape of the valley is the inverse of the peak shape of the P component. Intriguing!

The rather sudden change in steepness some seconds before and after the peaks as shown by both components is interesting too. The main peak shape is slightly asymmetric.

One option for the difference in the shape of the curve for the A component (i.e. for the "valley"at the top) might be the presence of a rotating component interfering with the flare pattern caused by the satellite body, perhaps.

NOSS (Naval Ocean Surveillance System) satellites are SIGINT satellites operated by the US Navy to locate shipping, based on geolocation of the ship's radio emissions. They are also known by the code name INTRUDER. They always operate in close pairs, such as can be seen on the video.

The P component peaked at 20:59:11.85 UT (Aug 30, 2018), at position RA 313.222 DEC +45.628. The A component has a first major peak at 20:59:17.33 UT at RA  313.331 DEC +45.077; the small secondary peak at 20:59:18.37 UT at RA 313.765 DEC +45.307; and a third major peak at 20:59:19.33 UT at RA 314.170  DEC +45.518. The two major peaks are 2.0 seconds apart.