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Another "what in the heck was it" story

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#1 rgm40

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 07:47 PM

While sneaking a peak at comet Panstarrs night before last, at roughly 75x, 10" f/7.55, a slow moving object came into the FOV. At first I thought it was a slow moving satellite. Then I noticed the object looked to have lights blinking regularly at roughly the rate of 8 times per second. They would blink about 6 or 8 times, pause, then again. At 75x and APOV of 50 degrees the object stayed in the FOV for at least 30 seconds if not longer. Any ideas? :shrug:

Since getting back into astronomy last year, I am amazed at how much stuff is floating around out there unnoticed, compared to just a few years ago.

Maybe Mulder was right :roflmao:

#2 StrangeDejavu

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 08:00 PM

Is it possible you were seeing the ISS? I see satellites all the time, but they appear as a gold speck that goes from one end to the other in about 3 seconds, not 30. :shrug:

#3 obin robinson

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:25 PM

It sounds like a satellite or piece of debris tumbling out of control. I have seen the same thing before and it was a tumbling rocket body.

obin ;)

#4 azure1961p

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:49 PM

3 seconds to vault across the sky is awfully fast for a satellite. I'd say 30 seconds is far more reasonable and done far longer than that.

Pete

#5 StrangeDejavu

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:05 PM

3 seconds to vault across the sky is awfully fast for a satellite. I'd say 30 seconds is far more reasonable and done far longer than that.

Pete


"One side to the other" as in one end of the eyepiece's FOV to the other, not the entire sky. :lol: I guess I should have been more specific. :crazy:

#6 Dan Finnerty

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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:14 PM

A high-flying commercial jet?

What color was the flashing light? White? High-intensity anti collision aircraft strobes have a flash pattern of several seconds between flashes, with a series of very fast pulsing flashes (multiple per second) during the "main" flash. This makes the flashes much more noticable to the eye.

#7 obin robinson

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 08:14 AM

It is possible that you saw FITSAT-1.
http://www.fit.ac.jp...ka/fitsat.shtml

It has super bright LEDs attached to it that flash as it crosses the night sky. I it wasn't a tumbler then I say it was FITSAT-1. That is a great sighting!

obin :jump:

#8 ThreeD

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 08:37 AM

There is a neat little app called Satellite Safari (by the makers of Star Safari) that could give the answer if we know the right info. We have your rough location and where you were looking in the sky -- if we know *when* you were looking it would easy to use the app to at least get a list of candidates

#9 csrlice12

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 09:56 AM

Predator Drone?

30 Seconds is a long time to cross the FOV of a 50* eyepiece, had to be going slow. A satellite would be there and gone hardly before you knew it.....

#10 Bakes

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 12:34 PM

Perhaps the instrument package of a high-altitude balloon? Balloons launched from the American SW were frequently spotted by amateurs in the Tennessee and Kentucky area back in the 50s and 60s.

#11 Mike B

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 10:57 AM

...were frequently spotted by amateurs in the Tennessee and Kentucky area back in the 50s and 60s.


... regions also famous for high-zoot hootch. ;)

I see satellites semi-routinely, the slow-moving golden glow that crosses a half-degree slice of sky in one's EP over the course of a handful (or two) of seconds. Have *not* seen them flash strobes before, but that would be cool. If the strobe flashed morse-code for "eat-at-Joe's", that's be funny... if it flashed "Joe is now one of us" i'd be a bit unnerved...

I've also noticed, several times, a seriously weird effect-- while observing a DSO and/or its starfield in an undriven Dob, suddenly one "star" will be seen drifting slowly across the field. But as i watch it, it becomes apparent that this "drifting" "star" is not actually drifting, but it's the FIELD that is drifting! (as it normally does in an "undriven" scope ;)) The "star" is remaining stationary in the FoV!

A geosynchronous satellite!

These can be quite the mind-bender to stumble across in this manner. When seen in a "driven scope" (done this, too), it's not weird in the least- obviously & simply is a satellite.
:shrug:

#12 darthwyll

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 11:40 AM

A geosynchronous satellite. Yep. I've seen the same thing a few dozen times. I see them often looking toward Polaris. Also sometimes over in the southern skies by Orion. In fact, they show up in my M42 images constantly. Quite bothersome. They will freak you out at first tho.

#13 Mike B

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 12:43 PM

How can a geosync satellite be seen near Polaris?
:foreheadslap:

#14 frito

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:06 PM

probably a satellite as others have said, back last winter i was in my backyard observing and saw a slow moving object that changed in intensity with almost perfect timing over and over again. after watching it pass over as it would start dim get brighter until it it would flair at around mag 1 or so then it quickly dimmed down to mag 4 and repeated over and over again like clockwork. first thing i did after watching it was go on to http://www.heavens-above.com/ and checked to see what sat it could have been and i determined that i must have been landsat 4 if i recall, it was definitely one of the old defunct landsat's that i know. anyways i saw that it would be making another pass the next day and every day for the next few days so i made sure to watch for it to confirm and sure enough there it was the next few nights in a row doing the same thing because it was apparently tumbling out of control in orbit.

#15 csrlice12

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:11 PM

OMG, that old "HeeHaw" "What the Heck is that" skit just flashed thru my mind......told y'all I'm half crazy....

#16 darthwyll

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:16 PM

Easily. And let me clarify that when I said "near Polaris" I mean about 10-15 degrees away. I used that phrase just to get those wondering where I observed it in the right area mentally.

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Polar_orbit

#17 darthwyll

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:19 PM

These satellites also rotate so that multiple instruments can be mounted. Solar panels are usually a huge part of these objects and we all know how much light can be reflected off these panels. That would more than likely cause the blinking that I and others have observed.

#18 Mike B

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:23 PM

I'm only nominally familiar with orbital stuff... but don't geosync sat's orbit equatorially? How else do they stay *synchronous" with geographical locations spinning underneath at 24 hours per rev?

#19 csrlice12

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:29 PM

They could be synchronous at areas other then the equator, it's all a matter of geometry and speed(and a whole bunch of other math).

#20 darthwyll

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 01:50 PM

"but don't geosync sat's orbit equatorially?"

Not always. There are many different types of orbits. To "sync" you just have to orbit the planet at the same rate of it's rotation. It's all about inclination. A geostationary orbit, from my understanding, is possible only within a certain area above the equator. Those satellites appear more near Earth’s ecliptic and do not appear to move very much.

#21 Mike B

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 02:55 PM

Those satellites appear more near Earth’s ecliptic and do not appear to move very much.

Correct. Those are the ones that (essentially) don't appear to "move" in an undriven scope. As i hear it, there are frequently gaggles of them that share the same vicinity, sharing the same GEO-synchronous property... and for various GEO locations around the globe. I believe i've seen this once, where several "stars" could be seen "hovering" in formation as the rest of the sky rotated by in the scope's FoV.

Perhaps these are what're termed "geostationary"?

#22 csrlice12

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 03:43 PM

Hmmm, all clustered above you......just what you up to in that back yard.......

#23 AstroTatDad

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 04:38 PM

Could well be a geostationary, just at the right place at the right time awesome!!!. I have only spotted out a hand full of the GEOS over my time of observing satellites. I have been heavy in to observing satellites and have been doing this hobby for sometime now. Every time I'm out observing, I see on a average of 5 to 15 just using my eye's. To see more I use binoculars, also fun through my telescope. I use to use my Meade LX10 8" with a stick attached to the tube for following the satellites. It took sometime to get that down and a lot of dizzy spell's for a while watching the footage I recorded LOL. It helped out big time when I added a star pointer, I would hit record get the satellite in site with the star pointer and try my best to keep the red LED centered. But I haven't done this method in sometime now. But it was fun LOL.

Anyway here is some short info on GEOS.

Since geostationary satellites remain over the same point on Earth, their orbits must have a period equal to the Earth's rotation on its axis = 23h56m. They also must go around the equator other wise they would appear to move North and South throughout the day and go in a circular orbit or this would appear to move East and West throughout the day. GEOS are in orbit around 35,000 km.

More info:
A geostationary satellite would be in an orbit of 0 degrees inclination, zero eccentricity and a mean motion of 1.002701 revolutions per day or a period of 1436 minutes per revolution. The Earth rotates once in about 23 hours and 56 minutes (1436 minutes); the remaining 4 minutes allow the Earth to rotate further, compensating for the apparent change in position of the Sun. This arises from the movement of the Earth in it's orbit about the Sun. In fact most geostationary satellites are really geosynchronous. Having mean motions between 0.9 to 1.1 revolutions per day they are allowed to drift across a box before corrections are made by on board thrusters.

Satellite observing is very fun, there is a lot of sites, app's and even programs to use with your goto scopes.

#24 Mike B

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 11:25 AM

Okay, so some of this is terminology! Geosync & geosta. Care to elaborate on the geosynchronous aspect? If there *is* such a thing as a "geosynchronous polar" orbit, what exactly does that imply? Inquiring minds wanna know! :grin:

#25 Cathal

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 12:18 PM

A satellite in a Molniya orbit will be very slow moving at its apogee. These would certainly hang at near-sidereal angular speeds within 30 degrees of the pole - it's why a lot of ex-Soviet comms satellites were put into these high-inclination high eccentricity orbits, to allow a long "hang-time" over the USSR's land and to allow communications in the polar regions that are not possible with geosynchronous satellites.

As for whether these would have a strobe effect? I don't know enough to be able to answer.

(as an aside) The planetarium software "Home Planet" can give a POV view from a satellite - it's fun tracking a Russian satellite in a Molniya orbit as it reaches perigee.






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