A question about reflection

Soilman3@aol.com
Mon, 24 Feb 1997 00:52:42 -0500 (EST)

I saw Mir flare up for more than 5 seconds tonight.  It was many magnitudes
brighter than nearby sirius.  I assume that I was seeing light reflected off
of Mir's solar panels.  Mir's distance from me was about 300 miles at the
time of flare up.  If the reflection was the result of a perfectly planar
surface, the area flashed would be a swath about 3 miles wide (since the
angular width of the sun is about 1/2 degree).  This would lead to a flash
with a duration on the order of 1/2 second (assuming Mir's spin rate is on
the order of one spin per orbit).  Since I saw a flash that was much longer
than 1/2 second, it made me wonder why.  Is it because the panels are warped
or is it because the panels have surfaces which are not very smooth?  I'm
guessing it is the latter, but wondered if anyone out there knows for sure.
 Thanks much!

Wilfred Whiteside
Walnut Creek, CA
37.9053N, 122.0550W