USA 179 Rk (04-34B, 28385)

From: Ed Cannon (
Date: Sat May 19 2012 - 07:35:03 UTC

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    Thursday evening as I was watching Superbird A flashing
    (more about this below), a fairly bright tumbling object 
    appeared from the southwest, three to four degrees to 
    the right of good old Superbird.  I managed to get a 
    relatively useful position or two as it tracked from 
    WSW to NNE and grew fainter as it moved more and more 
    slowly.  On Friday Mike confirmed it to be the USA 179 
    Centaur, which for Thursday evening had elements 515 
    days old and for which I had predictions about 40-45 
    minutes later than when it actually appeared.  
    Well, so, earlier tonight as I was looking for an LEO
    in the south, here came a bright, tumbling object going
    NNE, almost beside the LEO.  It seems almost certainly 
    to be the USA 179 Rk, observed again due to serendipity.  
    What are the odds?  It was about 15 minutes early on 
    the revised search elements Mike derived from the night 
    USA 179 was the NRO launch 1 (NROL-1) on 8-31 or 9-01,
    2004.  The fuel dump by the centaur was observed by 
    numerous people in the NE USA and in Canada, including 
    Ted and Kevin.  There was considerable discussion 
    about it on SeeSat-L before and after the launch.
    Superbird A (20040, 89-41A) is now flashing at about 
    4:00-4:08 UTC (as seen using 8x42 binoculars).  This 
    is at about RA 9:44-52, Dec +7.  I believe it flashes 
    somewhat earlier to the west of here and later to the
    east of here.  It flashes about a minute later from 
    night to night.  It flashes about every 10.5 seconds
    now.  The flashes are visible without magnification 
    from a dark-sky site.  They're bright but are so 
    quick that it's not easy to get enough photons to 
    see them without magnification.
    FWIW, I saw OTV 2 (by accident) on Wednesday evening 
    but didn't manage to come up with a useful position,
    and it got away so quickly that Mike didn't get to 
    see it.  Congratulations to Brad for looking early
    and getting good positions.
    Ed Cannon - Austin, Texas, USA
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