CONTOUR burn not observered

From: Rick Baldridge (
Date: Sat Jul 27 2002 - 16:42:54 EDT

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    Received the following report from Walt Morgan in Livermore, an experienced
    IOTA member and occultation observer.  Brian Day of the Peninsula
    Astronomical Society observing from his home near Mt. Umunhum above the fog
    layer over San Jose, CA reported nothing sighted with binoculars.  High haze
    and moonlight interfered somewhat, but definitely nothing "spectacular" was
    There is another burn (OCM8) next week which I may attempt using an image
    intensifier on at least an 8" SCT.  If that doesn't show it, nothing will!
    Saturday morning, July 27
    I tried recording the CONTOUR burn this morning, but was unsuccessful.  My
    equipment was an 8-inch SCT in alt-az mode with PC164C camera, giving a
    field of only 8 x 6 arc min, but I am confident that I was on the correct
    nearby star.
    To dodge the worst of the light pollution and fog I observed from a few
    miles east of Livermore.  The fog was moving in by burn time, but the sky
    above remained clear and the mag 9.6 star about 5 arcmin below the expected
    CONTOUR location was easily recorded.  (My confirmation of that was a mag
    9.0 star about 6 arcmin below the 9.0 star.)  Other nearby stars of mag 10.6
    to 10.8 were not bright enough to record.  (I have made several attempts to
    buy an f/3.3 focal reducer over the past 4 months, but don't have one yet.
    May settle for an f/6.3.)
    I rotated the camera so that the long dimension was oriented vertically, so
    that the 9.6 star could remain in view at the right edge of the screen --
    which was below the expected burn location.  A couple seconds after the
    expected start of the burn, when nothing appeared, I started slewing up,
    right, left, up, etc. to plausible locations.  At the end of the expected
    burn time I had in view a star that proved to be 14 arcmin above the 9.6
    reference star.  (That star is probably about mag 10; haven't looked it up
    I used the coordinates supplied by Rick yesterday for CONTOUR location, and
    later checked that with the Aptos and Sacramento tables provided by David.
    I was nearly on a line between the two, somewhat closer to Aptos, but all of
    that seemed to be consistent to an arcmin or so.  Just now, looking at that
    a little closer, it is plausible that I should have been looking somewhat
    lower than the 9.6 mag star.  I will make a larger scale plot to check that
    later this morning.
    Walt Morgan
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Rick Baldridge" <>
    To: " <snip>
    Sent: Friday, July 26, 2002 10:37 AM
    Subject: CONTOUR burn may be visible early tomorrow morning
    > I received the following E-mail today from IOTA President David Dunham
    > the visibility of the CONTOUR spacecraft burn that might be visible from
    > Pacific Rim areas tomorrow morning starting at 12h01n59s U.T.  I have not
    > seen a BURN before, so I cannot say for sure just how visible the burn
    > be, but a Centaur upper-stage FUEL DUMP at geosync distances was seen
    > easily by myself and other SeeSat members using binoculars and the
    > on January 16th this year.   You can see my picture of it at:
    > For the Bay Area, the spacecraft will be at RA 21h15m03s  Dec +21.3071 at
    > range of 46,700km during the burn, which starts at 5:01:59am PDT July 27th
    > and lasts for 58.5 seconds.  This is just about at Nautical Twilight with
    > the Sun -11, so it should still be dark enough.  A near-full Moon will
    > hamper observations a bit.  See chart attached.  Local Bay Area fog may
    > a big problem -- you may have to get above it if you want a chance of
    > this.
    > Peninsula Astronomical Society
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