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Hapchap
2010-Jul-02, 07:38 AM
I've just joined so I'll start by saying Hello, nice to be here.
In the 20 years been watching the sky I've never seen anything I didn't fully understand till last night. I'm viewing from the south coast of Ireland (great skys) and about 11.45 (BST) last night I saw what appeared to be a VERY fast satellite, it was brightening and dimming every 1-2 secs as if spinning rapidly, was about mag 0 or a bit less (i think) and was moving very rapidly, I first noticed it about 45-50 degs up due west and it traveled directly overhead fading at about 40 degs up due east, it took about 8-10 secs to travel this distance, (I was so spellbound at the speed I'm not even sure if these figures are accurate) It was much faster than anything I've ever seen before by a wide margin (besides meteors/fireballs) and am extreamly curious as to what it was, any ideas anyone???? Please put me out of my misery, Thanks.

Strange
2010-Jul-02, 10:31 AM
Could it have been the ISS: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/105317-ISS-Will-Be-in-Constant-Sunlight-the-Next-Few-Days

(I managed to miss it - twice - when I tried to see it)

AriAstronomer
2010-Jul-02, 10:40 AM
I would go with the ISS unless you were somehow mistaken and it was an airplane at some funny angle, making it appear as a single bright light. I've personally seen that before.

Buttercup
2010-Jul-02, 10:45 AM
My guess is also it was the ISS.

It recently passed over our area (tracking and other info can be obtained via http://www.spaceweather.com).

Hapchap
2010-Jul-02, 11:26 AM
Thanks for the replys folks but I've been following the ISS for the last few days (thats what I was waiting for last night and twice this week, I've watched it pass over, followed its full orbit online and watched it pass again, very happy with that). As I watched this thing last night I thought to myself if it was at the same hight as the ISS it would be traveling at at least twice the speed (or more) Huumm....
I've never seen the ISS brighten and then dim from say mag 0 to 6 every 1-2 secs, does it do this sometimes? Seems strainge(unless the folks up there were spinning it and playing gravity games).
Now all that said, I didn't wait to see if the ISS then passed, so......????? Also according to ( http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/cities/view.cgi?country=Ireland&region=None&city=Cork )It should have only been at max elev of 50 deg, this passed directly overhead.
Definitly not a plane no doubt about that at all, its so quiet here you can hear the grass grow..
If someone can explain it "flashing" at that elevation and angle to the sun then I'll accept I must have been mistaken with the speed, even though I have seen the ISS on numerous occations and even when not expecting it recognised it instantly. Thanks again for the input folks......

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-02, 11:49 AM
I haven't seen the ISS very many times, but I'm quite sure there is
no reason for it to brighten and dim every 1-2 seconds. NOT ISS.

An unexplained thing I saw about four years ago: I was looking
almost straight up at clear sky, middle of the night, when I saw what
appeared to be the flashing red light on the bottom of a jet plane,
heading directly toward my zenith. It flashed twice, at the typical
interval, and that was it. The second flash was directly overhead,
and there was nothing else. No jet engine sound.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

AriAstronomer
2010-Jul-02, 12:15 PM
When I saw the ISS, it passed through clouds, dimming it significantly. At one point it seemed to disappear completely, and then re-appear, easily being the brightest thing in the sky (besides the moon of course). Depends what kind of night he saw the object in.

Swift
2010-Jul-02, 02:28 PM
It does sound like a satellite. If it wasn't the ISS, it was probably another one, some of which are rather variable in brightness (as they tumble and because of solar panels and other surfaces). I would check out heavens-above.com (http://www.heavens-above.com/) for your location.

astromark
2010-Jul-03, 02:25 AM
heavens-above.com[/U] (http://www.heavens-above.com/) for your location.

That is an excellent site for finding what went over when... All you need to do is log in and tell the program your location and its like magic...

Like a lot of amateur astronomers, I too have spent hundreds of hours looking up... From what you have said, this is my spin...

It was going faster than you have observed the ISS and, it flashed or changed brightness... thats not the ISS then is it.

Most satellites are hidden by earths shadow about a hour or so after sunset ( or sunrise )

Often you can watch a east moving object vanish into the darkness of earths shadow...

Space junk or a asteroid entering and breaking up puts on a show just as you describe...

or a SR 71... shhh...

Lamphater
2010-Jul-03, 04:29 AM
I've just joined so I'll start by saying Hello, nice to be here.
In the 20 years been watching the sky I've never seen anything I didn't fully understand till last night. I'm viewing from the south coast of Ireland (great skys) and about 11.45 (BST) last night I saw what appeared to be a VERY fast satellite, it was brightening and dimming every 1-2 secs as if spinning rapidly, was about mag 0 or a bit less (i think) and was moving very rapidly, I first noticed it about 45-50 degs up due west and it traveled directly overhead fading at about 40 degs up due east, it took about 8-10 secs to travel this distance, (I was so spellbound at the speed I'm not even sure if these figures are accurate) It was much faster than anything I've ever seen before by a wide margin (besides meteors/fireballs) and am extreamly curious as to what it was, any ideas anyone???? Please put me out of my misery, Thanks.

I once saw something similar to the description you provide. It took me almost two years before I realized what I saw. It was a bird. The wings at work tricked my brain. I saw rotation and a light to dark flash every second. Also, I thought the speed was incredible as I percieved this to be so far and in reality it was very close.

I saw the same thing two years after....at first it looked just like my UFO, then my brain clicked and it was all so clear. Sometimes the brain can't process the information correctly, and in the attempt to get it correct we get an illusion instead.

Hapchap
2010-Jul-03, 12:59 PM
Well, after checking Heavens Above......nothing on that trajectory at that time so: my conclusion, must have been something entering (or re-entering).
That pleases me.
Thats 2 new things for me in the last year (saw the Shuttle and Fuel Tank pass over 20 mins after launch just under a year ago).
Now I will sit back, relax and enjoy being pleased.
Sláinte.

Hungry4info
2010-Jul-03, 10:11 PM
I once saw something similar to the description you provide. It took me almost two years before I realized what I saw. It was a bird. The wings at work tricked my brain. I saw rotation and a light to dark flash every second. Also, I thought the speed was incredible as I percieved this to be so far and in reality it was very close.

I must admit to never having seen a bird at night.

bunker9603
2010-Jul-04, 01:12 PM
This thread talks about something similar to what you saw:


http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/68104-Blinking-Satellite?highlight=flashing

slang
2010-Jul-04, 02:54 PM
I must admit to never having seen a bird at night.

They can be very, very tricky, especially if they fly without calling out. Vaguely illuminated from below by street or city lights. It's just enough so you notice there's something there, but not enough light to clearly see what it is, nor to judge the distance. Usually the mystery is solved in seconds when they do honk or screech or cry or whistle.


(saw the Shuttle and Fuel Tank pass over 20 mins after launch just under a year ago).

Nice!

Jeff Root
2010-Jul-04, 02:58 PM
I also saw what is described in that thread. What I already described
above in *this* thread was clearly the standard red belly light of a
plane flying roughly east-southeast. What was odd was that I saw it
flash twice and then it disappeared without a trace. My *other*
sighting was also a pair of flashes. I wrote about them on BAUT two
or three times before. I'll just copy and paste the two I could find:

One year (circa 1998) when the Perseid meteor shower (in August) was
predicted to be especially heavy, I went out to take a casual look at the
50% cloud-covered sky. I forget now whether I saw any Perseids, but I
did see two flashes in another part of the sky, that were not streaks.
After the first flash, I wondered if it was a random meteor that happened
to be headed straight toward me. The second flash was 20 seconds later
if I recall correctly, and seemed to be in the same location, high in the
sky, but with the moving clouds it was impossible to tell. This was about
a year before the first Iridium satellite was launched, so I know it wasn't
an Iridium. What I saw is very similar to what I'm currently discussing with
a poster in California about what I think was a satellite in geosynchronous
orbit -- but what I saw was too bright. So it is one of my top UFOs.
I posted about it some years ago when I remembered the details better.
Probably here on BAUT and in sci.astro, maybe elsewhere before that.

...

Over a decade ago I was making a cursory look for Perseid meteors. That
would be around August 12. It was 2 AM, and the sky was patchy clouds.
The spaces between the clouds were relatively dark and clear. The clouds
were moving rather quickly. I saw a single white light flash, very high up in
the south-southeast, roughly in the direction of Cygnus or between Cygnus
and Pegasus. Ten or twenty seconds later I saw an identical flash in what
appeared to be exactly the same location. They were as bright as the
brightest stars, though not as bright as Sirius. A satellite in low Earth orbit
would not have been in sunlight at that time of night, and would have been
moving rapidly across the sky. I can only guess that I saw something in a
much higher orbit, despite the brightness of the flashes.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Swift
2010-Jul-04, 05:34 PM
I once saw something similar to the description you provide. It took me almost two years before I realized what I saw. It was a bird. The wings at work tricked my brain. I saw rotation and a light to dark flash every second. Also, I thought the speed was incredible as I percieved this to be so far and in reality it was very close.

I have seen birds at night, particularly twilight, one in a while, and they do seem odd looking. I recall one spring seeing some tiny dots way up high, very early in the morning. I wasn't sure what they were, until I heard the calls (http://www.dedham.k12.ma.us/webquest/jw/SWANS.wav) - a flight of Trumpeter Swans heading north.



Now I will sit back, relax and enjoy being pleased.
Sláinte.
Clear skies Hapchap.

Kebsis
2010-Jul-10, 02:46 AM
I saw something similar to what you described once, it turned out to be an Iridium satellite. Moved very quickly indeed. You've probably seen them before but what you described was almost exactly what I saw.

ngc3314
2010-Jul-10, 03:25 AM
I've seen rapid flashes form two categories of object. Non-operational Iridium satellites can tumble rapidly enough to give what looks like a random pattern of flashes, some very bright. The other, more regular flashers are upper stages from Russian SL-16 launch vehicles, which often start with a revolution period of only a second or two (due, I gather, to fuel venting to avoid possible explosions) and gradually slow down via interaction with the geomagnetic field. Both of these can be found on Heavens-Above, but in the rather unhelpful sense that you have to know what to look for since they generally aren't predicted with magnitudes bright enough to get automatically listed.

Bizzarely, I once managed to accidentally catch one of these SL-16's in an image from Kitt Peak, one which I had been following visually only weeks earlier. We got a really good light curve...

eburacum45
2010-Jul-10, 03:50 AM
Saw a tumbling satellite myself, the other day; it flashed in a strange rythmn, one long flash then one short flash, as if two different reflective surfaces were catching the sunlight in turn.