Eccentric flashing UNID

From: Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 01:49:54 PDT

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    At about 3:16:45 (May 22 UTC) I aimed for Cosmos 1980 (19649, 
    88-102A) with my binoculars, and just as it came into view I saw 
    a fast +4.5 or so flash a degree or two west of it.  Another 
    flash only three seconds later, and another, etc.  Due to it 
    being bright and in an easy place for me to describe, "about a 
    degree or less west of the boundary between red and white paint 
    below the top light of the radio antenna" (!), Mike McCants found 
    it right away in his telescope.  Soon he determined that it was 
    moving slowly to the east.  We observed it for almost two hours.  
    Its motion in azimuth decreased, so it seemed it was ascending 
    towards apogee.  
    
    I timed the fundamental flash period at 2.98 seconds.  During the 
    observing time the brightest flashes faded from about +4.5 down to 
    fainter than +8.5, and then about 90 minutes after it was first 
    seen they brightened back up to about +5 again for a few minutes.  
    In the telescope it was easy to see that there were four maxima 
    in the three-second cycles, and that over time the pattern of the 
    maxima varied.  Also at least one of the four was double.  Mike 
    found that by wiggling the telescope a little, the two sub-flashes 
    of the double flashes could be seen separately (split?) in the 
    field of view.
    
    I did not come up with any good candidates using loose parameters 
    with Findsat and alldat.tle as the source of orbital element data.
    
    Here are alt-az positions Mike read off the setting circles of his 
    telescope at the given times (May 22 UTC):
    
    3:17 - alt 50.5, az 157  (seen in binoc field near 19649, 88-102A)
    3:40 - alt 48.5, az 149  (crosser, possibly 24731, 97-6G)
    3:53 - alt 47.5, az 146
    4:52 - alt 44.5, az 142   
    5:00 - alt 43.8, az 141.5
    5:10 - alt 43.5, az 141
    
    Also, I saw a crosser in the finder scope at about 3:28 that might 
    have been 05847, 72-9B, but forgot to request an alt-az reading at 
    that point.
    
    Observing location was BCRC, 30.314N, 97.866W, 280m.
    
    Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA
    
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