Re: Possible re-entry sighted

Date: Sun Oct 01 2000 - 21:46:54 PDT

  • Next message: Paul Gabriel: "obs 02 oct 00276"

    I'm new to satellite watching also, and I found this listserv after I saw
    something remarkably similiar to your observation.  To date I have not
    established what it was, though several people on SeeSat suggested it was
    atmoshpere grazing meteor.  I chatted with a Cornell astro post-doc and he
    seemed to think the object was moving to slowly to be a meteor, but
    stranger things have happened.  I am currently leaning toward a military
    aircraft of some kind, but that may be more my own wishful thinking than
    reality.  I say that because if the object (as described in my original
    message below) was sub-orbital and started its flight from the southern US,
    as its flight path suggests, there are not any military bases "black"
    enough to hold such a project.  Tyndall AFB near Pensacola and Barksdale
    AFB in Lousiana are both pretty large in terms of area but have not been
    associated with super secret stuff in the past.  Most of that conspiracy
    theory business has gone on in the American west at places like Nellis AFB
    and the ballyhooed Groom Lake facility.  One exception is Whiteman AFB in
    Missouri, which is pretty much straight south of Duluth, and the home of
    the B2 stealth bomber.  It is possible a high altitude reconaissence
    aircraft would be based there and fly missions over the pole to Europe and
    the middle east, in which case it would fly over Minnesota.   Why a
    presumably secret aircraft would fly over moderately populated central NY
    instead of out west is not clear to me.  The only reasons I can think of,
    and it's pure speculation, is that such an aircraft would make a lot of
    noise and need hundreds of miles to accelerate so it might be based along
    the Gulf Coast, using the Gulf of Mexico as a safe area (not likely to hit
    anything if something goes wrong rather than trying to avoid detection) to
    reach cruise altitude, maybe 100,000 ft +, and then head on its desired
    course.  Why there was no sonic indication when the thing went by me is not
    clear. I used to live in St.Petersburg, FL and the space shuttle would
    regularly make two 'sonic booms'  (leading edge and trailing edge) when it
    passed overhead at a similiar altitude on its gliding return to X68, the
    Shuttle Landing Facility on Florida's East coast.  The other big hole in my
    argument is that I can't account for the color and shape of the exhaust
    plume.  While solid fuel exhaust appears orange it seems unlikely aircraft
    would be powered by it, and the hydrogen/oxgen combo used on the shuttle is
    slightly blue, but appears white when veiwed at night (at least it does on
    the dozen or so launches I have seen from Florida's west coast).        
    I apologize in advance if this message is off topic, but I just saw 
    something really cool and I couldn't find anyone else on the 'net to ask, 
    so you kind people get a neophyte's question:
    At approximately 5:20 zulu (1:20am eastern US local), I, along with about 
    half the Cornell University campus who were exiting the local bars after 
    1:00 am closing, saw a bright orange glowing ball that moved from south to 
    north in the western sky. The object appeared to be a de-orbiting 
    satellite because it did not streak across the sky rapidly like a meteor, 
    it had no flashing strobes or red/green position lights like an airplane, 
    and it seemed to be breaking up as it traveled along (small glowing bits 
    broke off from the main body several times). I have seen several polar 
    orbiting satellites over the years (through binoculars) and this object was 
    travelling at a similar speed. I didn't have the foresight to time the 
    object precisely, but what I recall and my local data are as follows:
    Location: Ithaca, New York, USA 
    LAT/LON from my trusty handheld GPS: N 42 26.4' / W 76 29.2' 
    Time (approx): 05:20 UTC September 2, 2000 
    Object's direction of travel : south to north (looked like a 360 degree 
    true heading) 
    Object's apparent angle above western horizon: 40-50 degrees (measured 
    after the fact with an inclinometer) 
    Duration of event: 2-3 minutes (I walked about 300 meters in the time it 
    took the object to travel roughly one fourth of the visible sky from a 
    position due west until it disappeared in atmospheric haze)
    Relative brightness: Brightest object in the sky, I don't have the ability 
    to quantify it for you. 
    Atmospheric conditions: Syracuse, NY (roughly 25 nm north) reported 8 
    statue miles visibility at 6:10Z and that seems accurate to me for when I 
    saw the object. Sky had scattered thin overcast, and not more than 20 
    stars were visible with the naked eye around the object. The object was 
    bright enough for me to notice it while walking in a city with lots of 
    ground lights and hazy conditions, that's pretty bright.
    Since NASA's and JPL's website contained precious little information to 
    help me identify this object I would appreciate any assistance your 
    combined wisdom could render. 
    Rob Shuck 
    Cornell University 
    Ithaca, NY 
    At 09:57 PM 10/1/00 +0100, Alan Pickup wrote:
    >>I am an amateur astronomer and had the opportunity to spend a 
    >>couple hours observing last night (9/29-30) under dark skies from 
    >>my site 15 miles north of Duluth, MN. I have seen many meteors in 
    >>my time but last night offered something truly unusual. At 12:53 
    >>a.m. I spotted a slow-moving, northward traveling "meteor" moving 
    >>from northern Cetus in the southeast clear across the eastern sky 
    >>disappearing some 10 seconds later 4 degrees above the 
    >>northeastern horizon. The object was yellow-orange, about mag. -
    >>1.0  and left a continuous contrail as it leisurely traveled across the 
    >>eastern sky. I even had time to train the finder on my telescope on 
    >>it when it was very low in the north. Would I be right to assume this 
    >>was probably a piece of a satellite burning up? Were there any re-
    >>entry predictions for yesterday evening?
    >>Thanks for your help and comments!
    >The apparent velocity of this object appears too high for it to be a
    >decaying satellite. Neither can I find a decayer that could have been
    >responsible for this report. The closest two are #26149 and #24238. the
    >former (CBERS LM4 deb AK) may have decayed early on the 30th UTC
    >(perhaps 02:00 UTC) though there was no published elset during its final
    >day. In any case, its orbital plane took it nowhere near Duluth near the
    >time of the observation. #24238 = Pegasus deb LM may have decayed at
    >about 07:00 UTC on the 30th, but again there was no elset in the last
    >day and the orbital plane was in the wrong place.
    >Alan Pickup / COSPAR 2707:  55d53m48.7s N   3d11m51.2s W      156m asl
    >Edinburgh  / SatEvo & elsets:
    >Scotland  / Decay Watch:
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