Three People Watch MIR LUNAR TRANSIT !

Jim Varney (
Sat, 4 Oct 1997 23:34:02 -0700 (PDT)

Tonight three observers from the Sacramento Valley Astronomical
Society -- Chris Hulbe, David Larzelere and Jim Varney -- went to a
rural area of Sacramento County, California (121.1 W, 38.6 N) to
attempt to observe Mir transit the 3 day old moon.  We were well armed
for the event -- a C-8, 20x80's, 10x50's, 6x50's, a camcorder and two
35mm cameras.

The predicted passage was Oct. 5, 1997 at 03:01:50 UT, with Skymap
predicting a track from cusp to cusp right across the earthshine.  The
moon was only 6.3 degrees above the western horizon.

The videotape is a lot of fun to play back.  Mir is barely visible,
but you can make it out.  The audio is even better:

"I have Mir.  About 7 o'clock, a degree and a half."
"Is it closing in?"
"Closing in!  One degree, 7 o'clock!"
"Almost ingress...!"
"Ingress now!"
"On the moon, on the moon!"
"And... Egress!"
"That was GREAT! Oh man!"  "Awesome!"

It took Mir 5.1 seconds to cross the lunar disk and was about 3rd or
4th magnitude.  

One of the things we remarked about was how accurate Skymap was.  I
used Mir elements that were one day old from OIG.  With them Skymap
just absolutely *nailed* the track right across the lunar disk. 
Skymap called a cusp-to-cusp transit and that is just what we saw. 
Hats off to Rob Matson -- outstanding job with Skymap!

Also observed: we saw STS-86 about 7 minutes prior to Mir (but nowhere
near the moon).  Iridium 13 glint in Aquila to mag 2 or so (thanks to
Randy John's Iridium prediction program).  Finally, we all had our
retinas dazzled looking at Superbird A through David's C-8 -- after
seeing several flashes with the unaided eye.  But these things paled
in comparison to the Mir transit.  All I can say is that seeing Mir
inch across a beautiful earthlit moon was a special and memorable

Jim Varney   121.398W  38.458N 8m   Sacramento, CA,

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