Possible New Brilliant Geosync Flasher

Robert Sheaffer (sheaffer@netcom.com)
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 15:06:51 -0800

Those of you reading the newsgroup "sci.astronomy.amateur" may have
seen a recent posting by Greg Granville at Penn State University,
describing a brilliant flash apparently from a geosynchronous
flashing satellite, reaching an estimated Magnitude of ONE!!!

The particulars:

Location: 40 deg 44 min north, 77 deg 56 min west (Pennsylvania)

Date: 1997, Feb 9 local time 

Time: unfortunately, *UNCERTAIN*. Estimated at perhaps 20:00 EST 
(01:00 UT Feb. 10). Seen for several minutes, then faded.

Apparent position: approx 40 arc-minutes north of the Trapezium in
Orion, brilliant flashes approximately every 39 seconds. The object 
was not sidereal, but rather geostationary.

My preliminary analysis is: if accept the time of 20:00 EST, then
there are no geosynchronous objects north of the Trapezium.
Skymap shows the geosyncs S2, Anik C-1, SBS2, SBS4, and K1
near the Trapezium, but south of it. These are all operational
satellites. We think that an object must be in a mode of
uncontrolled tumbling in order for its solar panels to produce
such brilliant, regular flashes back toward earth.

However, if we assume that the sighting occurred earlier, approximately
19:10 - 19:15, then Skymap places the DRIFTING geosynchronous
satellite Anik D1 (Norad nr 13431) about 40 arc-minutes north
of the Trapezium!! (My TVRO elements are a few weeks old, but I
don't think they change as quickly as objects in lower orbit).
This object is reported in Jonathan's Space report to be drifting
westward at approx .51 degrees per day.

Watch the skies!!!!