Re: Help needed in identification of a bright object

From: Gerhard HOLTKAMP (
Date: Tue Sep 01 2009 - 17:05:30 UTC

  • Next message: Bjoern Gimle@GlocalNet: "Re: Help needed in identification of a bright object"

    On Monday 31 August 2009 22:19, Christian F. Ackermann wrote:
    > Location of observation: Mannheim, Germany +49.5055 -8.4712
    > Time of observation: Saturday August 29 2009, 20:30 local time (18:30
    > UTC; according to my wife  10 minutes because it was already too dark
    > to read her watch precisely).
    > Looking straight up, approximately at the zenith, there was a bright
    > white star-like spot that did not scintillate and was clearly in the
    > negative magnitude range. It didn't appear as bright as Jupiter did that
    > night (-2.8 mag) against a black sky but against the civil twilight sky
    > it appeared maybe half that bright. I could observe the object for
    > several minutes (2 to 5) and during that time I could not notice any
    > movement (I did not have visible references like a roof or other stars
    > in close vicinity to that object) or change of brightness. Finally I
    > looked up again and the object was gone. I checked the sky periodically
    > for 5 to 10 minutes after that but it did not appear again.
    What you have observed was a weather balloon. This time of the year the 
    illumination is just right for your location to see this phenomenon. Every 
    day such a balloon is launched some 100 km away from your place at 16:45 UT 
    and depending on the wind it may drift toward you. At 18:30 UT the sky is 
    already dark enough and the balloon high enough to see it. 
    I had a spectacular view of it yesterday (31-AUG-09) through a scope with 60x 
    magnification. It appeared with about 1 arcmin diameter and there was a 
    specular reflection at one spot. At 18:37:01 UT it exploded having by now 
    reached an altitude of probably some 35 km or so. I could clearly see the 
    debris flying into different directions. One larger part (the instruments?) 
    was coming down faster. 
    I think you can look for this balloon for another two weeks or so.
    Gerhard HOLTKAMP
    Darmstadt, Germany
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