Re: Bright diffuse atmospher

24 Feb 1997 10:19:41 -0800

Hi Bart,

Sounds like an observation of a Molniya transfer-orbit burn to me.  I believe
Ted Molczan discussed/described a similar observation made last year...  --Rob
Date: 97/02/24 13:06 
From: Bart De Pontieu

Hi all,

I received a message from Juergen Rendtel (
of the International Meteor Organization. I've included a
few excerpts below. If you want a text with the complete discussion
that was held on the meteor-observing mailing list, let me know,
I'll send it to you privately. It's a bit too long to be sent to

Suffice it to say that Mr. Rendtel contacted me (and I contact
you) because no explanation has been found yet. 

> Bright diffuse atmospheric phenomenon at night
> When turning on the fireball patrol camera this morning (1996 Nov 8)
> I observed an unusual bright diffuse light high in the sky (almost 
> overhead). While it was overcast most of the night, I found that the 
> clouds started to disappear at 03:50 MET (02:50 UT). However, there 
> were slowly moving cirrus clouds as well as a few fast moving cumulus 
> clouds. 
> At 03:55 I was about to open the shutter of the camera, and I saw
> `something diffuse' near zenith, i.e. north of Gemini. At a first
> glance it appeared like the moon shining through thick cirrus or so.
> (In fact, the moon was still close to the horizon.) I estimate the total
> brightness of the phenomenon as -1...-2 mag, while I was able to
> see stars up to +3/+4 with the naked eye. The object was elongated
> (about 1 deg wide, 6-7 deg long), showed no motion, and even in a
> 10x50 binocular there was no structure to be seen. I took a few
> photos between 04:02 MET and 04:14 MET. After 04:10 the brightness 
> decreased remarkably, and (also due to thicker cirrus again) it 
> disappeared after 04:15 MET. There was a little `knot-like' structure
> around 04:12 visible in the binocular. 
> The position was near RA=100 deg, Decl=+40 deg, i.e. elevation 80 deg,
> azimuth 15 deg (az. counted from S=0 deg).
> ... <snip>