Early Iridium flare obs?

Mark A. Haun (haunma@angwin.ece.uiuc.edu)
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 08:58:12 -0500 (CDT)


Those who are examining the pattern of Iridium satellite flares may be
interested in this observation, made in early August.  I'm posting it
because it appears to pre-date any of the others already mentioned.  The
times and positions are not very accurate, but might allow interested
parties to verify whether this was in fact an Iridium obs.

On 2-3 August UT I was observing at the Table Mountain Star Party north of
Ellensburg, WA, approx 47.12 N and 120.51 W.  Around 0540 UT on the 3rd (2nd
local time) we all noticed a very bright object to the northeast at about 30
degrees elevation.  My first thought was that it must be a near head-on
meteor because it was so slow and bright.  However, when I was able to track
it for another few minutes in binoculars as it faded below naked-eye
visibility and continued across the sky NE to SE I was quite baffled.  The
peak brightness was at least several times that of Juptier, and I think it
was brighter than Venus although my dark-adapted eyes may have misled me.

Interestingly, in the early morning of 2 Aug, about 1000 UT (but I didn't
write anything down so that's only +/- an hour!) we had observed the exact
same thing but with the flare occuring in the NW.  It wasn't until the
repeat performance that night that I started getting really curious...

Mark Haun