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.

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