Easy pickin's

From: Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 09:30:56 PDT

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    The weather here was mostly uncooperative for much of last 
    night -- a lot of variable clouds at three different levels.  
    But Mike McCants and I went to the observing location anyway 
    in hopes of the sky improving enough to see 00653A.  No such 
    luck.  However, we did get to observe a near-zenith, near-
    perigee bright pass of Simsat 1 Rokot (26367, 0026C).  Its 
    range at the near-zenith point was about 213 km -- and about 
    2 or 3 degrees west of a big cloud.  It was still twilight, 
    with the solar elevation about -10 degrees.  With a Quicksat 
    phase angle of about 70 to 80 (more than 50% illuminated), 
    this object's magnitude appeared to be about +1.  If it was 
    varying at all, the twilight and sky conditions made it too 
    difficult to see at 1x.  It was moving very rapidly!
    That was the first "easy pickin'" (i.e., "picking", as in 
    "like picking a ripe fruit off a tree").  Only a little 
    while later I was still trying to see stars through "sucker 
    holes" when I heard Mike mumble something like, "It's 
    raining."  Then I noticed he was packing up his equipment.  
    Then I felt light raindrops.  Hmmm.  Bummer.  So as not to 
    have to walk home, I gave up also.  When I got home, it was 
    too late to see 00653A, even though by then I could see the 
    most relevant stars off-and-on.  
    Later the sky was somewhat better, so I thought I'd try 
    another.  To change metaphors, this one was like "shooting 
    a fish in a barrel".  About 90 or more minutes later than 
    five nights ago, with variable thin clouds, the gibbous 
    Moon 10 to 20 degrees away, and in the parking lot of my 
    apartment, with city sky glow and nearby streetlights, 
    traffic lights, security lights and cars passing on the 
    street, I looked at the spot where TDF 2 (20705, 90-63A) 
    was supposed to be at a range of about 37,600 km, and 
    within a few seconds it flashed at me, about +4 if not 
    brighter.  I observed it for 10 or 15 minutes, flashing 
    every 21+ seconds.  Then I took a 15 minute break to eat a 
    bite of something and then returned outside, and it was 
    still flashing.  Finally after several more minutes it did 
    grow faint and disappear, a few minutes after local 
    midnight (daylight saving time).  It began with a few double 
    flashes separated by more than one second, so I used that 
    value as an uncertainty.  
    90- 63 A 00-06-07 03:12:23.2 EC 2943.8 1.0 136 21.65  mag +4.0->inv
    90- 63 A 00-06-08 03:27:28.9 EC 2725.3 1.0 126 21.63  mag +4.0->inv
    90- 63 A 00-06-13 05:09:29.0 EC 2421.0 1.0 112 21.62  mag +4.0->inv
    Observing location:  30.314N, 97.866W, 280m
    Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA
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