Satellites (?) to identify

From: FONTAINE Marcel (
Date: Sun Apr 19 2009 - 18:35:32 UTC

  • Next message: Derek C Breit: "DCB Obs April 19 2009 UT"

    Dear all,
    I have just registered to the list, upon the advice of a Belgian  
    specialist in satellites, A. Pouplier, to submit a strange observation  
    I did at home last February and for which I have so far been unable to  
    find an explanation - except that it is probably satellites that I  
    saw. I hope that with the knowledge and experience accumulated in   
    this group, some of you might recognize what I saw.
    Let me first briefly introduce myself. I have been an amateur  
    astronomer practically for all my life - having to bear with Belgium's  
    terribly overcast skies. I am not a specialist in satellites, though I  
    observe some of them occasionally.
    Now my observation.
    Location : Dion-le-Mont, Belgium, 50 41' 50 " N, 4 40' E.
    Time : February 14, 2009, between 23.00 and 24.00 UT.
    Taking a look at the sky in the direction of Sirius, I saw two very  
    bright orange points (brighter than Sirius).
    I soon realized that these two points were moving in the same  
    direction, southwards, but very slowly. It took them about 10 minutes  
    to almost reach Alphard (a distance of  40), but then they both  
    disappeared after gradually fading. They were separated by about 4,  
    but that distance slightly varied in the meantime (sometimes closer,  
    sometimes farther).
    They had hardly disappeared when I saw that three new similar bright  
    orange points had appeared, also near Sirius (I must say that my view   
    west of Sirius was blocked by trees). They made some kind of a right  
    triangle, smaller side  4, larger side  6. Like the preceding two,  
    these three points moved together southwards, at a similar speed, and  
    disappeared near the same location after gradually fading.
    I then waited for about ten more minutes, but nothing else came. It  
    was very cold and I did not have the courage to persevere.
    I have never seen anything similar. Their trajectory, and  
    disappearance after fading off, makes me think they are satellites.  
    But they were so slow (much slower that the ISS), and yet so very  
    bright (much more than the ISS), and of such a vivid orange color.  
    Also these groupings puzzled me - and the fact that the distances had  
    some variations.
    The site Heavens Above indicated no passage of satellites brighter  
    than magnitude 3,5 above my location at that moment.
    The only person over here who suggested a possible identification said  
    they were probably secret military Russian satellites, moving on an  
    orbit of the Molnyia type. I do not know what you  think of this  
    tentative explanation.
    Thank you very much for any comments you may have.
    > Marcel Fontaine
    > Rue du Village 33
    > B-1325 Dion-le-Mont
    > Belgium
    > Tel.: +32-(0)10-68 07 04
    > Fax : +32-(0)10-68 02 71
    > E-mail : <>
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