#26539 re-entry - observer's report

From: Alan Pickup (alan@wingar.demon.co.uk)
Date: Thu Nov 02 2000 - 13:32:30 PST

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    Back about October 12 and 13 there were messages here about the possible
    observation of the re-entry of #26539 (00- 56 B), the Cosmos 2372 Zenit
    rocket by the pilot of an aircraft over Maseru, Losotho. Harro noted the
    very low altitude that the re-entering rocket must have had if viewed from
    that range (some 850 km or more). I pointed out that the 30,000 ft height
    of the vantage point could have led to a relatively long-duration and low-
    angular-velocity observation (for a re-entry), with the object visible
    through clear air, albeit at very low altitude.
    
    I am now able to forward the excellent report of the sighting provided by
    the pilot, Rob Champion. This agrees well with our analyses, confirming
    that this was, indeed, a spectacular sighting of this decay - I wish I'd
    seen it.
    
    Alan
    __________________________________________________________________
    
    Forwarded report by Rob Champion (champion@global.co.za)...
    
    
    I was one of the pilots operating a flight from Port Elizabeth to
    Johannesburg on Tuesday night (11/10) .
     
    I will attempt to give you as much detail as I can remember.
    - Take-off (PE) - 1717 UTC. 
    - Landed (JNB) - 1830 UTC. 
    - Our approximate position was S29 30.0 E 27 30.0.  (within 50nm) 
    - Altitude - 33 000' above mean sea level. 
    - Our true heading was approximately 020 degrees. 
    - Moon was full or very close to full and was about 60 - 80 degrees above
    the horizon.  As far as I can remember it was not in sight during the
    sighting from my position in the cockpit (i.e. it was above and most likely
    behind the cockpit window.)  It was a relatively bright night but there was
    little or no light from the ground. 
    - Time of the sighting was approximately 1800 UTC.  (I'm afraid I cannot be
    more accurate other than to say that it would not have been later than
    1800)
    
    When I first saw the object it appeared to be an aircraft with its landing
    lights on at a distance of approximately 40nm.  The light did appear more
    yellow than white.  At this stage it was no more that 5 degrees above the
    horizon and 10 - 15 degrees to the right of the nose. ( True bearing of 030
    -035 degrees).  I did not take much notice for a minute or two until I
    noticed what I can describe as a "condensation trail" coming from the
    light.  It took a moment or two for the fact to sink in that it would be
    impossible to see a trail at night!  Now I watched a little closer and it
    was quite clear to see fragments falling off behind the object.  These
    fragments would burn for a few seconds before fading.  By now the object
    was on a true bearing of 065 - 075 degrees and at its brightest.  It
    eventually faded when it was almost abeam of the aircraft, on a true
    bearing of 110 degrees.  The elevation relative to the aircraft decreased
    very slightly during the sighting.  When it disappeared it seemed to be
    just above the horizon - approximately 2-3 degrees.
     
    The whole event lasted approximately 3-5 minutes.  Sometimes when seeing
    something like this time stands still so it can be difficult to judge the
    time span accurately.  When I saw the "tail" clearly for the first time I
    brought it to the attention of my colleague on the flight deck.  We then
    still had time to call two of the flight attendants forward to view the
    object.  It definitely was visible for a substantial time.
     
    I hope that these details are of some value.  I will now pay more attention
    in the future!!
     
    Regards,
     
    Rob Champion
    __________________________________________________________________
    
    -- 
    Alan Pickup / COSPAR 2707:  55d53m48.7s N   3d11m51.2s W      156m asl
    Edinburgh  / SatEvo & elsets:    http://www.wingar.demon.co.uk/satevo/
    Scotland  / Decay Watch: http://www.wingar.demon.co.uk/satevo/dkwatch/
    
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