Iridium flare at Mt. Etna

Date: Fri Aug 10 2001 - 03:52:21 PDT

  • Next message: Dennis Jones: "I-51"

    I left Houston Saturday for Mt. Etna and returned here Tuesday night. On
    Monday evening I sat atop an old crater remnant about 1km south of an
    eruptive fissure at Mt. Etna waiting for an Iridium flare to occur just
    above the top of the volcano itself. The sky had cleared and only a little
    smoke was emanating. Explosive eruption had ceased earlier in the day
    unfortunately. A long lava column was visible slowly inching its way down
    the slope at around 2000m altitude.You could hear the crackling of the lava
    (similar to sounds of pouring hot liquid into a glass of ice). Stars to +5
    were visible. At the predicted time the +0 magnitude flare occurred and I
    was able to capture it as it disappeared behind the top of the volcano along
    with the lava flow in the foreground. I hope to post the photo in the next
    few weeks on my web site. There was a bit of luck in capturing this. I had
    attached a cable release to the 35mm camera but at one police roadblock the
    camera rolled onto the floor severing the cable inside the threaded part of
    the shutter release button. At the observing point reached by a 30 minut
    difficult climb, a 20-25 knot wind was blowing almost constantly and I had
    to anchor the tripod with a backpack and a camcorder to use as a weight. In
    order to secure the image, I had to manually depress the shutter for about
    30 seconds while the wind was whipping the tripod and camera. The elevation
    of the flare was only 16 degrees above azimuth 349 and the flare barely
    cleared the top of the volcano. On the previous night I got stuck in a
    traffic jam in the town of Pedara and could not reach the volcano in time to
    spot a -6 magnitude flare. Though this particular flare was not all that
    bright, at this altitutde and with the sky clarity, it recorded extremely
    Paul D. Maley
    Tel. 281.244.0208, Fax. 281.244.1140
    Lat. 29.6049N, Lon. 95.1069W, Alt. 6m
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