Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays and 3 Satellites

A happy holiday was had by all. I got some very cool stuff. Lots o CDs, DVDs n Books. The kiddos got sweet stuff as well. I took the week between Christmas and New Years off this year, so it's even sweeter.

The clouds finally cleared this evening so I was able to spot a few satellites. Yay! It was cold and I swear that my watch is off by a few minutes, but I sync'd up my computer using Tardis and the watch shows that it is within 20 seconds or so. So I dunno.

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 27-Dec-2010 Monday

7:03 PM - Cosmo-SKYMED 1 - 2.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2007-023-A
This is my eighth sighting of SkyMed 1, the Italian earth observation satellite.

7:06 PM - Cosmos 1603 - 3.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1984-106-A
This is my first sighting of Kosmos 1603, a Russian Tselina-2 ELINT satellite. This was the first Tselina-2 satellite to be put into orbit. It was put into orbit using a three stage Proton-K rocket with a Blok-DM-2 upper stage.

7:22 PM - Cosmos 1536 Rocket - 3.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1984-013-B
This is my first sighting of this Tsyklon-3 rocket which was used to put the Russian Cosmos 1536 Tselina-D ELINT satellite into orbit.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Family Fun and 1 sat

Tom and Amy came over with their wonderful kids. We all got to run and jump and play. We also had tasty pizza. Papa Murphy's really is da bomb (though this one seemed a bit greasier than usual.

After they left the Mrs gave our kids a bath. I put lil A to bed.

I went outside, armed with a list of 10 satellites to look for, around 7:10pm. It was probably in the teens. Luckily, I managed to find a scarf that I've had since I was 10 (it was way too big then, but fits pretty good now). It is a good scarf and it kept my face warm. However, there were some spotty clouds, the moon was fairly bright and the sky was a bit whitewashed, so I only saw one satellite this evening. Glad I saw one 'cause I would have been a bit preturbed to stand outside for a half hour to see nothing.

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 18-Dec-2010 Saturday

7:35 PM - Cosmos 1125 Rocket - 4.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1979-078-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket, which was used to launched the Russian Stela-2M military communications satellite. Of note, the Kosmos-3M rocket has been involved in a few accidents. In 1973 a Kosmos-3M rocket exploded and killed 9 people. In 1976, another Kosmos-3M exploded killing another 9 people. Overall, however, the Kosmos-3M is fairly reliable with 424 successful launches and only 20 failures (a 4.5% failure rate). The first flight of a Kosmos-3M occurred in 1967. The most recent flight of a Kosmos-3M occurred in April 2010.


Also, I just read that Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) passed away due to multiple sclerosis. RIP.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Got to go out for about 10 minutes (which was plenty 'cause it was COLD outside, probably around 20 F. Brrrrrr. My goal was simply to see as specific object which was launched in 1979. And I got it. Take that space junk! Only 10 more years to go!

Here's the time-line for the morning of:
Date: 17-Dec-2010 Friday

7:09 PM - Resurs 1-4 Rocket - 2.1 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1998-043-G
Ahhh, another sighting of ye olde bright and faithful. This is sighting number 23 of this Zenit-2 rocket.

7:12 PM - Meteor 2-5 Rocket - 4.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1979-095-B
This is my first sighting of this Vostok-2M rocket, which was used to launched the Russian Meteor 2-5 meteorological satellite into orbit. Some Vostok-2M trivia for ya: 1) The first Vostok-2M launch occurred in 1964 to launch Kosmos 44 (one of the original 'old' satellites I was trying to see) 2) In 1980, a Vostok-2M scheduled to launch Kosmos 1169 exploded on the launch pad during fueling, killing 48 people.

7:12 PM - IRAS - 4.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1983-004-A
This is my second sighting of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).

I still need to see satellites from the following years: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1979.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The Geminids (a December meteor storm whose focal point is the constellation of Gemini) peaked on the morning of December 14th. I had kinda planned on trying to see a couple on my way out to the car to go to work. However, around 5:30am the Mrs came in and told me to get up with lil N who had been up since 4am (ugh!). At first, this was a big drag. However, it was a blessing in disguise. I went into the kitchen which faces west and looked out the window. And that's when I saw my first Geminid meteor. Looking through the window was a bit difficult at first since the lamp in the other room was in the wrong spot and was reflecting regardless of where I was. I finally went in and switched which lamp was on. Eventually lil N inquired what I was doing. I said "I'm looking for shooting stars". And she said enthusiastically "Reeeeallly?" And I said, "Yes. Do you want to sit with me and watch some?" She said "YeahhhhhH!". So I turned off the TV and all the lights, opened up the blinds on the sliding door which faces west, put two chairs right in front of the windows, sat her down and pointed towards Gemini (just above Orion) and said "Watch right up there". I no more than sat down and "woooooosh!", a bright white shooting star streaked to the west, leaving a smoke trail (which quickly went away) in its path. Lil N exclaimed "I saw it, I saw it!". I was so happy that she got to see one. And it was the best one of the morning. Yay! After about 5 more minutes, lil N started freaking out a bit. Turns out she was a little scared of the dark. So, I turned back on the TV and watched for a another half hour. Also of note, this was the first time I spotted satellites from inside as well, one of which happened to be my 300th object. Good stuff!

Here's the time-line for the morning of:
Date: 14-Dec-2010 Tuesday

5:30 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading SW

5:37 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading WSW

5:37 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading WSW

5:44 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading SW

5:44 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading W

5:45 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading SW

5:53 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading W
This was one that lil N and I saw together; the bright one that left a smoke trail

5:56 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading W

6:11 AM - Yaogan 1 - 2.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2006-015-A
This is my first sighting of Yaogan 1. This is a Chinese remote sensing satellite. While China stated that this was for "scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield" and etc, most speculate that this is actually a reconnaissance satellite named JB-5 1 and utilizes SAR. Also of note, supposedly Yaogan 1 broke up back in February 2010. This satellite was 'twinkling' so maybe that was the reason for this. Other satellite observers believe that something internal when wrong because if it was hit by another satellite it would be in many more pieces that it is.

6:17 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading NW

6:22 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading S

6:22 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading W

6:11 AM - Cosmos 1937 Rocket - 4.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1988-029-B
This is my second sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket. This particular rocket launched Cosmos 1937, a Russian Strela-2M communications satellite.

6:24 AM - Geminid meteor - Heading NW

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, it's cold!

I got to do my first shoveling of the year. I think we had about 3 inches in the driveway. While shoveling I managed to see one satellite. Yay!

Then I drove to work and the car turned over 100k. And somehow, with only .7 miles to go from when I had last looked at it, I missed that magical moment. I had to do the clover leaf at 33 and needed to pay attention to the yay-hoos who were driving REALLY slow. I didn't realize it until I got to about Sr 42 and I looked down and it was at 100004.something. I was so excited about it too. I thought MAYBE that it would roll over on my drive out of the neighborhood. But nope. Oh well. Sometimes life goes like that. You miss something that you think will be the greatest thing and then a day or two later you realize it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place.

It was clear this evening so I got to go out and shiver me timbers off outside. I only spotted 3 this evening. I should have had 5 but just at two satellites were going to cross in the sky, looking straight up, as little patch of dense clouds came through 5 minutes before they satellites would have been overhead and stayed there until 2 minutes after my window had past. By that point my cheeks were frozen since I wasn't smart enough to put on a scarf, so despite having another 1/2 hour worth of things to check out, I went in. I was cold.

But even seeing those 4 today was more than I've seen probably in the past 3 weeks.

Here's the time-line for:
Date: 13-Dec-2010 Monday

6:45 AM - Lacrosse 2 - 1.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1991-017-A
This is my third sighting of Lacrosse 2, the NRO recon satellite.

6:22 PM - Zi Yuan-2B (or JB-3) - 3.0 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2002-049-A
This is my 6th sighting of Zi Yuan 2B, the earth imaging satellite from China.

6:33 PM - Spot 1 r DebY (or SPOT 1 Rocket Y) - 2.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1986-019-Y
This is my first sighting of this object. This is a piece of rocket debris from either an Ariane 1 rocket which launched two satellites: SPOT 1 and Viking. First, about the rocket. The Ariane 1 was ESA's (European Space Agency) first rocket. It was designed to put two satellites into orbit at a time. This particular launch was the last for the Ariane 1, which gave way to the more powerful Ariane 2 and Ariane 3. The Ariane 1 was a four stage rocket. I'm not sure if debris Y is one of those stages or what. There were quite a few pieces of debris associated with this particular rocket launch. Dunno. And now a little bit about the two satellites: SPOT 1 was the first of five French remote sensing satellites. SPOT 1 had imaging capabilities and had a resolution of 10 to 20 meters. The other payload was Viking, Sweden first satellite. According to Wikipedia, "Viking was used to explore plasma processes in the magnetosphere and the ionosphere." Yeah, I really don't know what that means. Read up on it because learning about how a satellite "could measure the electric field of the earth in all three dimensions" sounds kinda cool to me.

6:34 PM - Cosmos 2428 Rocket - 4.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2007-029-B
This is my third sighting of this Zenit-2M rocket body which launched a Russian Tselina-2 ELINT satellite.

Just out of curiosity, I still need to see satellites from the following years: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1979. I figure out of those 11 years, probably 7 of those years have satellites or rocket bodies that are visible with the naked eye. The others will probably require binoculars or maybe even a telescope to see. It could be that the winter months will provide me force me to be more selective and if I have a something specific to see (such as something from the years I haven't seen yet), that will help me make a more 'educated' decisions... unlike tonight when I had an hour and a half's worth of satellites to see when it was 20 degrees with a wind chill of something like 10 degrees.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

SpaceX rocks and 1 sat


Well, the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule attached went of nearly without a hitch on Wednesday. They had to stop the countdown on the first attempt, but the second countdown went off without a hitch. Both stages of the rocket performed nominally (i.e. within parameters), the Dragon capsule detacted successfully and then the Dragon capsule performed 2 orbits 180 miles above the earth, re-entered the atmosphere, deployed the 3 main chutes and splashed down in the Pacific ocean 500 miles off of Southern California. Only 6 countries have ever sent up an object and successfully returned it to earth. This marks the first time that a non-country organization has done this. Awesome.

It was also determined that the Dragon carried two payloads. One was a military nanosatellite for the Army. The other what a big wheel of cheese as an homage to a Monty Python skit.

Despite the Monty Python reference :P, it could be that the next stop for the next SpaceX launch could be the International Space Station. That would be HUGE!


Went out to go to work this morning and it was crystal clear, unlike the non-stop cloudy skies we've had for the past week. So I stared at the sky for a few minutes and managed to catch one going from N to S through the W. I also went out this evening around 7"15pm as there were at least some breaks in the clouds, but it was just too late and there were still quite a few clouds. The moon and mostly clouds were in the W and that's where the satellites are likely to be that late in the evening. Didn't see anything in the E. And since I was constantly facing one direction, it started to get cold... though I truly believed it was going to be much colder than it actually was.

Here's the time-line for morning of:
Date: 09-Dec-2010 Thursday

6:20 AM - Cosmos 2428 Rocket - 2.7 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2007-029-B

This is my second sighting of this Zenit-2M rocket body. This is a slightly different rocket than the Zenit-2, though I honestly can't tell you what the difference is. Wikipedia says that there are some modification and upgrades. As far as I can tell from both Wikipedia and Gunter's Space Page, there has only been one launch of a Zenit-2M, though it's odd that they show two separate pictures of the rocket and note that two different companies can launch the Zenit-2M. It looks like maybe they've never launched a true Zenit-2SLB and went straight to the Zenit-3SLB. *shrug* I dunno.

Anyways, this rocket launched Cosmos 2428, a Tselina-2 Russian ELINT satellite.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

random crap


Well... I still haven't found a job yet. Which is okay for now since I still have the one I'm at. The market doesn't seem to be bad, though I was hoping a bit more from some of the agencies around here. With the market being the way it is, I was hoping for at least 3 referrals by now. Alas, that is not the case. Most others won't return my calls when they find I'm only looking at FTE positions. Eventually I'll have to open up to Contract-to-Hire, but not just yet.

So, 6 months ago JAXA (Japan's NASA) sent a spacecraft in the direction to Venus. The mission was to put the spacecraft into orbit around Venus so they could study Venus' clouds, weather and atmosphere. As close as it is, scientists don't know as much about it as you would think. Anyways, the craft finally arrived on Monday and there was a burn (a boost from the rockets) either Monday or Tuesday to put it into orbit. There was a scheduled communications blackout right about that time as well (similar to when the Apollo missions would go to the backside of the moon). It was supposed to last 20 minutes. Unfortunately it lasted an hour and a half. Seems that the burn did NOT put the spacecraft into orbit. In other words, they missed. :( They have re-established communications with the spacecraft, however they will have to wait another 7 years for the spacecraft to try again (if they even get the opportunity.

I feel bad for the JAXA scientists. They have had some stellar missions lately with sending spacecraft to go into Moon orbit and other pretty cool achievements. It guess it was time for them to have a miss. Still, I was pretty excited about the JAXA Venus mission since (as far as I know) it's been a while since anyone has sent something up there, and with the recent discoveries of water on the moon and ice on Mars, I was hoping they'd find something really cool... like volcanoes or liquid sulfer lakes or space chicks or something. Oh well, maybe the craft can be directed towards Mercury or somehow back to the Moon or something. I'm sure they'll use the craft for something but I guess for what is up in the air now.


In other news, SpaceX is scheduled to launch their Falcon 9 rocket with the new Dragon capsule at the top today (Wednesday Dec 8th 2010). SpaceX is a private corporation specializing in space transport. With the Space Shuttle being ground for good sometime next year and the current U.S. space programs not really going in any particular direction, the U.S. doesn't really have a way to put peeps into space other than catching a ride with the Russians. The Dragon capsule is SpaceX's attempt to fix this problem. While it is flying empty today, it is being designed to carry as many as seven people. It's pretty close, not in look, but in concept to the current Russian Soyuz spacecraft or the Apollo command module in that it's just a capsule that returns, not a whole spaceship like the Shuttle.

I believe they were planning on launching on Monday, but they found a crack in one of the thruster nozzles. So, here's hoping that there aren't any other issues (like the poor Discovery Shuttle (STS-133) which was supposed to launching in November, but due to various problems including several cracks in the large external fuel tank is grounded I believe until February which might end up pushing out the final flights of the other shuttles.


I don't think I have any other updates other than my wife is cool and I love her very much for being supportive and at the same time continuing to put up with my shit during this period of uncertainty.

Friday, December 03, 2010

1 sat I saw a couple days ago

While heading off to work Monday morning, the sky was fairly clear. So I went out between the houses and stared up into the sky for a minute or two. And I caught sight of a faint satellite going S to N almost straight overhead.

Here's the time-line for morning of:
Date: 29-Nov-2010 Monday

6:31 AM - IRAS - 4.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1983-004-A
This is my first sighting of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (aka IRAS). IRAS was the first-ever space-based observatory to perform a survey of the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. That's a big honking deal in case you didn't know it. :) Due to the infrared sensors, the satellite had to be kept at a temperature of 2 Kelvin. IRAS was in service for 10 months until the superfluid helium ran out and the telescope warmed up too much for it to be able to provide useful information. It found over a quarter of a million sources of infrared light. Nearly 20 years later, many of these sources still need to be identified. Using other data it gathered, it also discovered 3 asteroids, including one asteroid which is the parent of the Geminid meteor shower. It also discovered 6 comets. The satellite was put into orbit using a Delta 3910.