STRANGE OBSERVATION OF STS-78 !! SIDEWAYS j ??

Willie Koorts (wpk@saao.ac.za)
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 19:47:25 +0200 (GMT+0200)

Hi Folks

I just had the most amazing sight of STS-78.  It was a very good pass, 
practically overhead (61 deg.) 1 hour after sunset.

The conditions were very favourable,  clear from horizon to horizon and 
execelent sky transparency - the site is the observing outstation of the 
South African Astronomical Observatory.

At the predicted time at about 15 deg. elevation a little white cloud
appeared.  While still scanning the skies in that direction,  we noticed 
some movement towards us of this "white cloud".  The movement become 
faster and much more noticeable and a bright spot started appearing on 
the southern end of the cloud.  This light spot became possibly 1 st Mag 
by the time of culmination and the "tail" was easily 2 degrees long at 
this stage.  By now the 3/4 moonlight was becoming a nuisence but the 
"tail" was allmost all the way visible till shadow.

The appearence of it was exactly like a lower case "j" on it's side with 
the dot being the shuttle and the character the "tail".  We were 2 
persons sighting it and we both remember the kink in the tail in 
different directions.  The cloud was fanning open away from the shuttle.  
Something like this: (Let's say the kink was towards rhe direction of 
movement)



                  O----------::::::;;
                                    ;:
                                   :: 
                           |   
                           |
                           V
                 Direction of movement.

We,  being the National Observing station of S.A. gets lot of U.F.O. 
sighting reports when things like this occur.  As I am typing now,, we 
just had our first caller.

What did we see.  Was this perhars one of those famous water dumps?
What do I tell people calling in?  This first caller is going to phone 
back in the morning.

We saw it last night but showed no such comet tail then.

Willie

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        /        \_/   Willie Koorts   ( wpk@saao.ac.za )    \     /  \
      /              South African Astronomical Observatory    \_/      \
    /              PO Box 9   Observatory  7935  South Africa             \
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ps.  The telephone calls are now really pouring in!!  Quickly,  give me 
some answers?  Hope this is not something disasterous!