Magnitude -4 NOSS pass!

3432P@VM1.CC.NPS.NAVY.MIL
Fri, 6 Sep 96 09:49:47 PDT

Unreal.  Incredible.  Just a few of the words going through my head as I
watched with jaw agape the most unusual NOSS pass I had ever seen.  I've
observed over 120 NOSS passes before, and maybe a dozen or so were easy
naked-eye passes, but this one just blew me away.  The NOSS 2-1 triad
(20682, 20691 and 20692) was proceeding from Ursa Major towards Ursa
Minor, about 20 degrees up in the northwest, when two of the satellites
quite unexpectantly and rapidly shot from about magnitude 4 to an
amazing estimated magnitude of -4!

During the brightest portion of the flare up, I quickly looked over my
left shoulder at Jupiter at magnitude -2.4 and two of the NOSS triad
were >EASILY< brighter than that.  They rivaled, and probably exceeded,
my best-ever Mir passes, and I've seen Mir over a hundred times.  The
trailing satellite (20691) was bright but never exceeded mag. 2.
Imagine seeing Venus in formation with itself separated by less than
7 degrees, with Saturn trailing along;  that's what the spectacle
looked like.

The two satellites that flared didn't do so simultaneously.  The first
to brighten was 20692, followed about 5 seconds later by 20682.  I didn't
precisely time how long each flareup lasted but I would guess about 15-20
seconds.

I've heard of occasional brightening of NOSS triads before, but this
really shocked me.  Out of the 5800+ satellite passes I've witnessed,
I'd rank it in my top 10, joining company with some shuttle re-entries,
the TSS and TIPS tethers, the inflatable antenna, and the Shuttle-Mir
missions.

The sighting particulars for those interested...

My location is 10 miles north of Monterey, California at
36.6860 North, 121.8054 West
(36 deg 41 min 04 sec, 121 deg 48 min 04 Sec)

Time of NOSS Pass: 05 Sept 00:11:00 to 00:14:15 (Pacific Daylight Time)
                   05 Sept 07:11:00 to 07:14:15 (UTC)

Approx. location in sky of maximum brightness: 20 deg Alt., 345 deg Az.
(10 degress below Kochab).

Limiting magnitude judging by Ursa Minor was 5.8

Elements...
NOSS 2-1 (B)
1 20682U 90050  B 96223.90875474  .00000021  00000-0  36770-4 0    01
2 20682  63.4270 249.1215 0120000   8.4434 351.5566 13.40265684    02
NOSS 2-1 (C)
1 20691U 90050  C 96223.90887441  .00000019  00000-0  33173-4 0    09
2 20691  63.4270 249.1189 0124000   7.3779 352.6221 13.40265533    09
NOSS 2-1 (D)
1 20692U 90050  D 96221.96886214  .00000020  00000-0  34816-4 0    08
2 20692  63.4250 253.4014 0128000 350.1456   9.8544 13.40265196    02

I'm going to have to be careful to look for more passes with similiar
sun-angle geometry!

   Craig Cholar
   Defense Manpower Data Center
   Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey Calif.
   3432P@VM1.CC.NPS.NAVY.MIL