Introduction & Observation

From: Mike Chini (
Date: Tue Mar 21 2006 - 14:59:10 EST

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    Hello to all-
    I've been an active amateur astronomer for a couple of
    years and primarily observe with a combination of
    instruments including binoculars.  I live in Staten
    Island, NY and therefore see many satellites passing
    overhead on any given night.  Last night I saw an
    unusual satellite which prompted me to do a little
    research which brought me here.  This is what I
    observed last night.
    Time:   Approximately 10:30 - 11:00pm EST (UT 3:30a -
    Date:   3.20.06 EST (3.21.06 UT)
    Location:  40.58N - 74.16W
    I was just scanning the skies in and around Gemini
    with my 15x70 binoculars when I came across a bright
    flash of light.  I lingered in the area and saw
    another flash a few seconds later.  I had the natural,
    “what the heck is that?” reaction and kept the binocs
    locked on the tripod.  Yet each time I looked at the
    flash it had moved a tiny bit to the east.  It was
    moving so predictably I could predict where the next
    flash would occur.  I then timed the flashes to be
    almost exactly 5 seconds apart.  I tracked this for
    about 20 minutes as it moved very slowly to the east,
    crossing between Pollux and Saturn.  It would take
    about 3 minutes to cross one binocular field (~4
    degrees).  The really interesting part was that the
    flashes were different.  The first flash would be a
    sharp, bright red/yellow one.  5 seconds later there
    would be a more diffuse, slightly softer bluish flash.
     5 seconds after that, there would be a dim white
    flash and then nothing for 10 seconds.  The pattern
    repeated itself but at times the flashes grew very
    dim.  The brightest flashes were at about mag 5 or 6. 
    Whatever it was was seemingly moving very, VERY slowly
    as compared to most satellites or it was in a VERY
    high orbit.
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