Debris?

Edward S Light (light@argoscomp.com)
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 13:22:35 -0400 (EDT)

In the past week, we've seen three "debris" objects (using 7x50 and
10x50 binoculars) that we weren't looking for ...

    Object         UTC Date/Time     Apparent      "Quicksat"
                                    Magnitude    Intrinsic Mag
07174=73-086EL   1999 04 06/00:20     7.6            5.9
07160=73-086DY   1999 04 13/00:21     5.5            3.7
08978=75-004BL   1999 04 13/00:21     4.8            4.7

(Magnitudes are +/- 0.5 or so and are based on comparison stars)

I believe that these objects are all "Delta 1 debris"; 73-086DY and
73-086EL from the NOAA 3 launch and 75-004BL from the Landsat 2 launch.
I have a question regarding their observed brightness ... I've usually
assumed that "debris" means small and faint and therefore unlikely to be
seen in binoculars at our fairly light-polluted sight. Has anyone seen
these objects recently? Are our brightness estimates at all reasonable?
(There is always the possibility of misidentifications and we are
definitely trying to see them again.)

Regardless, it never ceases to amaze us how many objects are visible up
there with just modest optical aid; of the 1100+ different objects we've
seen in the past 4 years, 434 of them were seen with the naked eye (of
course, it probably isn't fair to include the flaring Iridiums in such
statistics :)  ). Whenever we go out to observe particular satellites,
we have to be ready for the occasional serendipitous observations.

Incidentally, we spotted 07160 and 08978 while following 25653=99-012E
make a lovely pass from Canis Major to Leo. This rocket varies
interestingly (sorry, no timings nor details) and is easily visible;
e.g. on 04/11 00:42 UTC it had apparent magnitude about 3 and on
04/13 00:18 to 00:21 its maximum brightness ranged from 4th to 2nd
magnitude (corresponding to "quicksat" intrinsic magnitudes near 2.5).

This is certainly NOT a boring hobby!


Clear and dark skies!
   Ed Light

Lakewood, NJ, USA
N 40.1072, W 074.2317, Hgt +21 m (69 ft)