Milstar/Centaur?

Greg Roberts (grr@da.saao.ac.za)
Tue, 4 May 1999 14:58:13 +0200 (GMT+0200)

Greetings all,
Ive just returned from a short spell of leave and found this in mail I 
had to deal with in connection with my astronomical activities at the 
S.A.Astronomical Observatory. It sounds real interesting and may or may 
not be related to the illfated Milstar launch on that date. I will quote 
the report in full:
At approximately 8pm (Namibian Time)-9pm SA Time (ie 19UT) on 30 April 
1999 we were looking at Orion when a small cloud began to appear off and 
above Betelgeuse,approximately in the line of Sirius and Pollux of 
Gemini.It began to get bigger and brighter so much so that I called 
everyone to grab their binoculars and come and have a look. Within a few 
minutes the cloud became almost rectangular in shape-approximately the 
length of two of the stars of Orions belt and almost as wide. With Leica 
8x42 binoculars I could clearly see at least three individual bright 
spots appear which looked like stars.After a brief period they bagan to 
circle and you could see the streaking of the circle- the streaking got 
faster and faster until it became a blur and the size of the cloud 
expanded until the bright spots burnt themselves out and the circular 
disk formed around a bone shaped centre cloud. The bone shape elongated 
as the circular disk expanded until it faded out and disappeared. The 
whole thing took about 20 minutes and remained in the same position while 
Orion continued to set. It was absolutely fascinating to watch and the 
four of us were initially watching it through binoculars were spellbound 
and we were able to call several other people to come and watch. We would 
be really interested to know more about it.What was it ? Did anyone else 
see it ? Are there any people we can contact who may be able to shed any 
light on it ?
Our email address is gbs@iafrica.com  - we look forward to hearing from you.
.... end of email message.
My comments: this could possibly be a propellant burn but what the 
circling lights etc are I wont hazard a guess. The author of the email 
message does not give his location - I assume its in Namibia somewhere 
and gbs stands for Gavin Blair Safaris, so my guess its a safari trip.If 
anyone thinks this is worth following up please contact gbs@iafrica.com 
directly ( I would appreciate a copy of any messages for my own records 
and in case we get any further reports - as far as I know this is the 
only one the Observatory has received so far.
Best wishes to all,
Greg Roberts
grr@saao.ac.za