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View Full Version : Strange light overhead. What could it be?



Joel Clifton
2004-Nov-12, 11:55 PM
About five minutes ago, around 6:48pm, I saw a bright object, about -2 or -3 magnitude, traveling about a degree per second, or so (that's just a rough guesstimate). It traveled from SW to NE about 30 or 40 degrees, and then began fading, and faded to invisibility in about 5-10 seconds.

Could it have been the ISS?

BTW, I live in Oxford, Ohio, which is north of Cincinnati.

Wolverine
2004-Nov-12, 11:56 PM
Sounds like an Iridium flare.

Edited to add: a quick perusal on Starry Night Pro using Cincinnati as the location lists Progress M-50, Soyuz-TMA5, and the ISS (respectively) all traveling along a similar azimuth at that time. Approx 8 separate the first and last, the latter two separated by just over 1. Nice little traffic jam. 8)

Wolverine
2004-Nov-13, 12:17 AM
Using Heavens Above (http://www.heavens-above.com/) to double-check (using Oxford OH specifically), seems like ISS is indeed the likely candidate. Cool!

Van Rijn
2004-Nov-13, 01:14 AM
ISS is bright. One time I saw it by chance from the car driving home. I verified it later, but the direction of movement was just what I would have expected. Imagine what things will be like when there are several space hotels and larger space stations up there.

Joel Clifton
2004-Nov-13, 04:08 AM
Using Heavens Above to double-check (using Oxford OH specifically), seems like ISS is indeed the likely candidate. Cool!

Yep, it looks like my guess was right! According to the website, the ISS passed overhead between 6:46 and 6:49 from SW to NE, and was around -1 magnitude! Cool!

Thanks for that website!

Wolverine
2004-Nov-13, 05:26 AM
My pleasure. Starry Night Pro's satellite database is pretty accurate from my experience, but it's always nice to have some backup. From previous conversations, I know few observers on the board here (myself included) enjoy tracking down satellite goodies.

NASA's J-Track (http://science.nasa.gov/Realtime/JTrack/) (and J-Pass) can come in handy too.

Evan
2004-Nov-13, 06:43 AM
A few years ago I had the pleasure of observing the shuttle catch up to the ISS on three successive passes that were observable from here. On the first the shuttle was perhaps 20 degrees behind the ISS. On the second it was maybe 5 degrees. On the third and last observable pass it was less than .25 degree. Since I am at 52 north I have on occasion a very good observing window.

Wolverine
2004-Nov-13, 07:15 AM
:o Sweet.

ngc3314
2004-Nov-14, 02:06 AM
A few years ago I had the pleasure of observing the shuttle catch up to the ISS on three successive passes that were observable from here. On the first the shuttle was perhaps 20 degrees behind the ISS. On the second it was maybe 5 degrees. On the third and last observable pass it was less than .25 degree. Since I am at 52 north I have on occasion a very good observing window.

I've probably said this here before - but I highly recommend getting a telescope at 40-50x and trying to fish ISS into the field (higher powers, I just can't do it). The big solar arrays and main modules are not too hard to distinguish. A Shuttle orbiter is much harder to make out - both smaller and brighter much of the time. I practiced a bit on airplanes first...

Evan
2004-Nov-14, 06:07 AM
The ETX goto scopes have a satellite tracking mode. I haven't tried it yet.