Titan IVA A-17 launch - was Greetings and questions

Philip Chien (kc4yer@amsat.org)
Sun, 9 Nov 1997 19:09:37 -0400

Pamela Bachman <bachman@nsu.acast.nova.edu> said:

>We were lucky
>enough to observe a launch (which NASA web site lists as a Titan IV) and
>watched in amazement as it traveled the night sky. I'd never seen a
>launch before....I think I'm hooked. As the launch became nothing more
>than a point of light high in the sky, I observed what looked like a
>firework going off.  It emanated out from the rocket in a perfect circle
>and faded quickly.  After that phenomena, the point that marked the
>rocket was dimmer.  So here's my question....what was this and how does
>it happen?  Is this what happens when something breaks out of the
>atmosphere?  Or have I spent too much time breathing from a SCUBA tank
>and am now seeing things?

Welcome to the satellite watching world Pamela!  While SeeSat is primarily
for artificial satellites already in orbit around the Earth watching
launches of satellites on the way to orbit is always popular too.

About what time after the launch did you see what you described?  There are
several possible explainations.

You could have seen -

the staging event where the two solid boosters were ejected

the separation of the fairing

the separation of the first and second stages

the release of the top-secret UFO carrying the Roswell space alien back to
space since his identity had been compromised (hmm, I don't think I'm
supposed to mention that one ...)

or -

you've been spending too much time underwater ....

Philip Chien [M1959.05.31/31.145//KC4YER@amsat.org]