ERS-2 and rocket?

From: Neil T. Clifford <neil_at_eeyore.demon.co.uk>
Date: Sat, 22 Apr 1995 22:38:34 -0400
Hello folks,

This last evening (22nd April) I decided to try and see if I could spot
the ERS-2 rocket and ERS-2 itself. Based on the element given below I
went out and wathced the eastern skies. At around 21:38 UTC I noticed a
mag +3 object  climbing in the ESE. Closely following it was a companion
of similar brightness. They climbed up towards the zenith closely
following the predicted path of ERS-2 but about 1 minute (in time) ahead
of the expected position. At 21:40:01 UTC the leading object (appeared
to have a very slight red tinge) passed between Alcor and Mizar (80 U Ma
and 79 U Ma) 1/3 of the distance from Alcor to Mizar. About 6 seconds
behind at this time the (white) following object passed on the opposite
side of Alcor to Mizar, 6 times the Mizar-Alcor separation in distance
from Alcor. At this point they were around mag. +2. I followed them as
they faded and were lost in haze to the north.

The two were just under 2 degrees apart and given the separation in time
and local elevation could have been associated with ERS-2 at an altitude
of about 780 km. I looked for a 'third' object in case they were NOSS
but couldn't see one (the most recent NOSS elements I have don't fit
these observations).

Consequently I searched for them on the next pass low in the west and
found two objects at about 15 degrees elevation, both around mag. +5.5,
in the vicinity of Beta Cancri (at 23:19:15 UTC), where I expected to
find ERS-2, again 1 minute ahead of expectation. Cloud and light
pollution prevented me from following them for more than around 30
seconds but I could see that the separation of the two objects was now
around 13 seconds in time.

I assume one object was ERS-2, but was the other the Ariane upper stage?
During neither pass could I see any indication of flashing from either
object. I don't know what the separation sequence and timeline is for
the upper stage and any other payloads (were any craft being piggybacked
on this mission as with ERS-1?). I assume that only the rocket stage and
ERS-2 could be such bright (and equally so) objects (ie anything else
would be significantly smaller). Does anyone have any details for the
rocket or other payloads? They should be passing over N America in the
next few hours.

ERS-2            3.5  2.0  2.0  6.2
1 23560U 95021  A 95111.14701845  .00000622  00000-0  24570-3 0    26
2 23560  98.5528 186.2575 0000583 237.1647 122.9556 14.32515532    17

Location: 52.676N, 1.893W, 130 m (ASL)

best regards,

--
Neil Clifford        http://www.ipp-garching.mpg.de/~bdp/vsohp/satintro.html

Received on Sat Apr 22 1995 - 21:57:33 UTC

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