Far-away flashing Molniya observed by accident

From: Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 14:26:00 PST

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    Last night (early March 16 UTC) I was tracking NOAA 7 with my 
    binoculars and saw a +4.5 flash from a different object in the 
    field of view.  In a few seconds it flashed again.  This 
    unexpected flashing object was "not moving".  It was in the 
    north-northeast, north of the bowl of the "Big Dipper".  Mike 
    McCants soon found the object with his telescope, and we 
    observed it for 45 to 50 minutes, throughout which time there 
    continued to be some flashes at least as bright as +4.5.  
    After getting back to his computer, Mike determined that it 
    was Molniya 3-27 (16393, 85-117A), which we have observed as a 
    one-power flasher in the past.  However, last night it was 
    first observed flashing to at least +4.5 when its range was 
    more than 32,000 km (20,000 miles)!  Although they were fast, 
    I think the brightest flashes might have been visible without 
    magnification from a dark-sky site.  Flash period was about 
    10.2 seconds.
    85-117 A 01-03-16 02:26:40.3 EC  254.5 0.4  25 10.18  mag +4.5->inv
    Observing location was BCRC: 30.314N, 97.866W, 280m.
    Aside:  Thanks very much to Allen Thompson for pointing out 
    that article about NGSOs! 
    Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA
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