Re: Satellite or Meteor?

Bjoern Gimle (
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 08:18:56 +0100 (MET)

>Friends:  I was driving home tonight and saw something bright plunge
>down through the sky.  I am located in east-central Iowa at about 41.7
>and 91.6.  The time was about 8:07 pm Central time.  I was looking west
>and the steady bright (white) glowing object fell almost straight down
>at about 260 or 265 degrees on the compass.  Is there any ways to
>distinguish a decaying satellite from a meteor by the color?  Did I see
>the Soyuz?  Thanks.
A glowing satellite still has most of its horizontal velocity, and
moves below the predicted satellite track.
So, if by '260 on the compass' you mean azimuth almost West, as usual,
this would mean a retrograde (East to West) orbit with approximately
135 degrees inclination.

As far as I know, there is a gap between 125 and 143 degrees in the
satellite population, and none of those close to these values is
expected to decay within a few years.

Soyuz-U rocket would have been moving down in ENE, if it were passing
overhead, but the nearest predicted pass was 20:38, far North of you,
i.e. moving NW to NE only a few degrees above horizon.

I believe the colour of a decaying rocket/satellite could be almost
anything, depending on which material is currently being vapourized.

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