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Waxing & Waning, Stationary Object... (curious)

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#1 Veridian

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 11:04 PM

Good Evening,
This past Tuesday evening (9-10-13), at about 12:05am, a curious object caught my eye in the constellation of Cepheus. It appeared to be a white star, gradually brightening and then dimming,, over a period of approximately 7-10 seconds,. one time only. Its maximum brightness was nearly twice that of Vega,, which is what caught my attention.
I had just gone out for a quick sky scan with binocs and was looking around in Cepheus when it was noticed (maybe 10 degrees, or less, to the left of Alpha Cephei).
Over the years I have seen plenty of satellites, the ISS numerous times and of course, countless aircraft. There was no resemblance to these. I've read about Iridium flares and watched the youtube video clips -- What I saw, did not move. It was totally stationary. A repeated scan of the area with 10x50 Nikon binocs did not reveal any aircraft, or satellites.
There must be a reasonable explanation, Any ideas?

#2 agmakr

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 02:39 AM

Hello,

have you checked Heavens above for that area
using the time you saw it?

#3 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 06:13 AM

Most likely not a variable star, sounds like a satellite.

Rich (RLTYS)

#4 brianb11213

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 07:05 AM

Most likely not a variable star, sounds like a satellite.

I agree. The apparent lack of motion is explained by whatever it was being at a much greater altitude than the Iridium satellites; in fact they'd have to be to get sunlight at close to midnight at this time of year. So the question is, what is there in high non-equatorial orbit that has very large solar panels? I'd put my money on a navigation system satellite, probably one of the Russian Glonass series. The exact identity should be traceable through the usual sources provided the exact geographic position of the observer is known.

#5 BrooksObs

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 07:15 AM

No variable star ever behaves in this manner. In fact, this is pretty much true of any source that would be located beyond Earth's immediate neighborhood, leaving some sort of satellite reflection as the only viable answer.

If one peruses the various amateur astronomy forums on a regular basis reports of this exact nature turn up quite frequently. In any case that is examined in detail to discover the source; it always turns out to be just a satellite. There are hundreds and hundreds of objects currently in orbit, many in odd, highly eccentric, orbits that may take them relatively far from Earth at apogee. Should an observer chance to see a reflection off solar panels in such an instance the object may seem to be standing still to the unaided eye over the course of say 10 seconds as the slow flash takes place.

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#6 Veridian

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 11:55 PM

Yes, as you all say, it was most likely a satellite. I did go to Heavens Above, as Angelos suggested. Although, it may take a more thorough search to locate the satellite in question. It was not any of the brighter ones on the list.
Both explanations from Brian and BrooksObs are well taken. I had not considered the eccentric orbits of those placed in very high altitudes.
Thank you all for reading my post and especially so for taking the time to reply.

#7 BrooksObs

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 07:00 AM

Veridian - Perhaps a word of warning in your search is in order. Don't look at just the predictions for the passages of "relatively" bright satellites for an ID. A rare chance "perfect" alignment of a large solar panel for a particular observer's location can very briefly take a quite faint satellite from a telescopic object to a striking naked eye one. Final ID's for these sorts of events often turn out to be of satellites one would never have anticipated could general such a bright "flash".

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#8 SabiaJD

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 11:32 AM

With some effort it may be possible it ID the object to a satellite.

The Allsky Camera captures operated at TGCO records many of these. (Fleetville, PA, USA) I have not been to ID any with a simple search, may require a lot of effort to do so.

By chance I visually observed one brighter than Vega very close to Vega, that was recorded by the AllSky camera that was not a flare of a Iridium satellite. Very few have been traced back to a Iridium satellite.

Evenings have been mostly cloudy of late around here. But I found an example of one on the NMSU TGCO camera web site where the images and video are posted. The moon is the other bright object.

This link will take you there, then click on the image of August 18, 2013 2:10 UT to seen the video.

http://skysentinel.n.../node64?page=23

#9 Veridian

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 11:53 PM

The tablet I am using has some difficulty properly loading the clip from
the AllSky camera. Although, from what can be seen there, this does appear as that which I saw, only shorter duration. Thank you SabiaJD for that suggestion and enclosure.
Looking over the page of satellites on the Heavens Above site does
not list any visible in the timeslot of interest (00:05 - 00:10). The earliest ones do not show up until after 3am. Perhaps I am not reading the page correctly. BrooksOBs, your suggestion is indeed in consideration, as the minimum magnitude button was reset to mag. 5. I may be just out of luck getting an ID on the thing, if unable to find any listings in that timeframe.
Thank you again.






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