Launch of Minuteman III 10 Feb. 1999

Robert Sheaffer (
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 08:25:31 -0800

Last night I observed the Minuteman III launched at Vandenberg Air Force
Base, California from my home in San Jose, approximately 400 KM north of
that site.

I first saw the object approximately 08:06 UTC. When I first spotted it it
was only about 5 degrees above the local horizon, and I thought it was an
airplane with a flashing red light on the left. In binoculars the "flashing
red light" was clearly seen to be part of the trail of propellants that
were breaking free and burning out, exactly like holiday fireworks. The
object and especially its trail had a strong red color. Several times I
watched bright flashes break off and burn out. The rocket was approximately
as bright as Jupiter.

It attained a maximum apparent elevation of about 25 degrees. When it
passed below Sirius, it had faded somewhat and was about a half-magnitude
fainter than that star. I managed to keep it in view only about two minutes
before it went behind some buildings to the west. The trajectory of the
Minuteman (towards the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific) was much more
towards the west that a previous launch I witnessed of a launch of Iridium

                   my GPS tells me I'm at 37 deg 17.3' N.,
                    121 deg 59.2' west (San Jose, CA)

        Robert Sheaffer - - Skeptical to the Max!

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