Monday, January 31, 2011

Finally, a mostly clear night

On Sunday, I finally got a clear night after one entire week. Geeez! Stupid weather. Looks like it'll be cloudy at least until Wednesday. We'll see I guess. I did managed to cross another year off the list. I nabbed 1969. There were four 1969 objects this evening. I was going to wait until later in the evening, but decided that I might as well stick my head outside since at that point it was still clear out. Good thing I did. I missed the other 3 due to clouds or the fact that they were too dim. This evening was also very cool in that nearly everything I saw was a new object for me (including an inflatable habitat that is still floating around in space).

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 30-Jan-2011 Sunday

6:40 PM - Meteor 1-1 - 3.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1969-029-A
This is my first sighting of Meteor 1-1, the first fully operation Russian meteorological satellite. According to NASA, Meteor 1-1 "provide[d] near-global observations of the earth's weather systems, cloud cover, ice and snow fields, and reflected and emitted radiation from the dayside and nightside of the earth-atmosphere system". It even had a TV camera to beam down images to many of the world's meteorological systems. Meteor 1-1 was launched by a Vostok-2M rocket March 26, 1969.

7:17 PM - Cosmos 2360 Rocket - 2.3 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1998-045-B
This is my first sighting of this Zenit-2 rocket which was used to deploy Kosmos 2360, a Russian Tselina-2 ELINT (spy) satellite.

7:20 PM - Resurs DK-1 - 2.3 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2006-021-A
This is my first sighting of Resurs DK-1, a Russian commercial earth observation satellite. It is actually a modified Yantar-4KS1, a military recon satellite. Ground accuracy for the Resurs DK-1 is 100 m and can transmit 300 Mbit/sec. It does not do true color photography, however using the available red, green and infrared cameras, it is able to get approximately the right colors (water is blue, grass is green, etc). Resurs DK-1 was launched using a Soyuz-U rocket in 2006.

7:27 PM - UARS - 0.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1991-063-B
This is my first sighting of UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite). It was launched via the Space Shuttle, mission STS-48 in 1991. In short, UARS was designed to study the physical and chemical processes occurring in the Earth's upper atmosphere. UARS carried with it 10 different measuring instruments. You can read way more about it on the wiki page linked above because most of it is way over my head.

7:30 PM - Lacrosse 3 - 2.7 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1997-064-A
This is my third sighting of Lacrosse 3, a reconnaissance satellite whose existence was denied by the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) until 2008. Lacrosse 3 was launched using a Titan IV-A rocket.

7:42 PM - Cosmos 858 Rocket - 4.7 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1976-098-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket, which launched Kosmos 858, a Russian Strela-2M military communications satellite.

7:43 PM - Genesis I - 3.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2006-029-A
This is my first sighting of Genesis I, an experimental space habitat designed and built by the private American firm Bigelow Aerospace. It was launched using a Dnepr-1 rocket. I remember reading about this some time ago and thought that it would be cool to try to spot this object... but then promptly forgot about it. This was an experiment to build an inflatable space structure as per NASA's TransHab concept calling for the development of an inflatable and inhabitable space structure. Obviously, it is easier to launch a light, compact habitat instead of a rigid, heavy habitat. Anyway, 6 months after being launched, it experiences a severe solar radiation event which nearly disabled Genesis 1. Luckily, scientists were able to get it back online and it has had continuous power since then. Here's a cool picture (and more info) on Genesis I.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brrrrrrrr on Jan 23rd 2011

it was a cold one this evening, but there were a few satellites from some of the years that I haven't seen yet floying overhead. It was fairly clear this evening and the neighbors mostly behaved (yay!) Managed to catch two satellites tonight including one of the ones that I wanted to see. I was actually working on my peripheral vision when I spotted one. Some parts of your peripheral vision are more sensitive to light. I was looking in the general direction of where one of the older satellites was going to be, though it appeared to be too early. Well, between the time I printed out my list on Thursday and tonight, there were some adjustments made to this particular satellite. It was showing up earlier and brighter. After doing a thorough check of the database, I determined that by luck I saw what I was trying to see. Awesome!

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 23-Jan-2011 Sunday

7:53 PM - Cosmos 1833 Rocket - 3.4 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1987-027-B
This is my third sighting of this Zenit-2 rocket which launched Cosmos 1833, a Russian Tselina-2 ELINT satellite.

8:11 PM - Timation 1 Rocket - 4.4 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1967-053-B
This is my first sighting of this object (and also the first sighting of an object from 1967). This particular object is a Thor-DM21 Agena-D rocket (from the Thor-Ablestar family of rockets). This particular rocket had (I believe) 8 payloads. The main satellite launched was Timation 1, a satellite designed to provide accurate time reference. It helped pave the way for GPS systems. Here is a pic of what Timation 1 looked like.
The Other satellites launched are a bit tricky to figure out what they are exactly since most of them were for the US Dept of Defense. :
* Two GGSE (Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment) satellites (GGSE4 and GGSE5).
* Two radar calibration satellites that were part of the Calsphere program, called Calsphere 3 and Calsphere 4. One was 16 inches in diameter and another was 20 inches in diameter. These were part of the SURCAL program. I'm only guessing that these are one in the same. SURCAL 160 was the 20 inch satellite. SURCAL 150B was the 16 inch satellite. Not sure which was Calsphere 3 or 4.
* Two U.S. ELINT satellites (Poppy 5) that were part of the Poppy ELINT systems (NRL-PL 151 and NRL-PL 153). Here is more info on the Poppy satellite system. These are SURCAL 152 and SURCAL 153. The existence of the POPPY program was only declassified in 2005, though most of the details of this program are still classified.
* Another satellite was SURCAL 159 was was some sort of radar calibration satellite (which is what they called the rest of them as well).

One site shows that 053F was Calsphere 3, so... as you can see... it is really really confusing on what sources to believe and what exactly was sent up there when all this crap is still mostly classified. Some sites refer to an 053A, but NASA doesn't even acknowledge this one... but the numbers seem to work out anyways... NASA has 8 objects listed and other sites have 8 objects listed as well. I think this has to two with the sequential object numbering. Why NASA doens't have an A.. I have no idea. Could be that a piece of debris (which the NASA site does not have information for) was considered A or something). It's all very confusing.

I still need to see satellites from the following years: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1969, and 2011 :-). Only 8 more years to go. The early years will be the hardest. 1965 and forward probably won't be a big deal if the clouds behave themselves when they need to.

Friday, January 21, 2011

shovelling snow, spotting satellites

It was a cold mofo this morning. I knew that I was going to have to shovel the driveway, but I also knew there would be few and far between at work, so I was in no hurry to get out there... until I peeked outside and could see the stars. It's been cloudy as all hell (hell has clouds???) lately and I haven't been able to see ANYTHING!!! So I put on my glasses, got geared up and went outside to shovel and spot satellites. Of course, I've since learned that going outside with glasses when it's cold out and trying to wear a scarf is a no-go for spotting sats. Your glasses steam up like noone's business. So, I wrapped mostly my neck (which was the coldest anyways). I would shovel a little bit, then look to the heavens. Lather, rinse, repeat. So, I managed to spot a couple, one as the sun was practically coming up... and that one was hard since it was really really dim to begin with, on top of the sky in the east bleaching out and the moon almost being full and also in the west... so only looking straight up was is still mostly dark. I wasn't even sure I saw anything until I went and looked at the times on the satellite databases. Yee freakin' haw. I'm hoping for a late night session tonight (aka 10pm) but the clouds seem to have rolled in.. so I guess we'll see.

Here's the time-line for the morning of:
Date: 21-Jan-2011 Friday

6:50 AM - Lacrosse 5 Rocket - 1.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2005-016-B
This is my third sighting of this Titan IV-B rocket booster which launched the NRO recon satellite Lacrosse 5.

7:13 AM - COBE - 4.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1989-089-A
This is my first sighting of COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer). This is the bad-ass satellite that helped George Smoot (fans of the The Big Bang Theory TV show should know who this guy is) and John Mather win a Nobel Prize in Physics because it essentially proved that the Big Bang likely happened... or something like that. In the words of the Nobel Prize committee: "the COBE-project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science". This satellite checked for cosmic microwave background radiation. It was launched using a Delta 5920 rocket (and was the only launch of both the specific 5920 model and the Delta 5000 series). This satellite did some cool stuff that is WAY over my head.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First satellite sessions of the new year!

Well, I finally managed to get all my duck (and satellites) in a row for this posting. Managed to get a few sessions (a couple morning sessions, a few evening sessions) on a few clear days at the very beginning of the new year. One of the main reason to go out during that time was the occurrence of the Quadrantid meteor shower which peaked on January 4th. I get to cross off a couple more years with my latest efforts (1968 and 1973) which leaves me with 8, no wait, 9 years (I have to add 2011 to the list now!) that I need to observe to satellite from. Some of those will obviously be more difficult since there are a few years in there that I think I will only be able to observe using either binoculars or a telescope. I guess we'll cross that when we get to it.

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 02-Jan-2011 Sunday

7:02 PM - Okean 3 - 3.3 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1991-039-A
This is my third sighting of Okean 3, a Russian earth observation satellite which monitors sea ice conditions in the Arctic.

7:02 PM - Cosmos 405 - 3.1 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1971-028-A
This is my second sighting of Kosmos 405, a Russian Tselina-D ELINT satellite. It was put into orbit using a Vostok-2M rocket.

7:10 PM - FIA Radar 1 - 4.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2010-046-A
This is my first sighting of this satellite. This particular satellite is classified by the United States National Reconnaissance Office. The launch designation was L-41 and the satellite designator is USA-215. The satellite itself reportedly the radar component the FIA system (Future Imagery Architecture). It is considered to the be successor to the Lacrosse satellite system. The government makes patches I believe for every space launch. HERE is the patch for L-41. However, it seems that the FIA program is in a bit of trouble. Remember that satellite we shot down a few years back, supposedly this was also part of the FIA system. There are also various other setback, cost overruns, etc that have plagued the FIA system. Anyhoo, the FIA Radar satellite was launched into LEO (low-earth orbit) using an Atlas V 501 rocket.

7:13 PM - Cosmos 676 Rocket - 3.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1974-071-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket body which launched the Russian Strela-2M communications satellite Kosmos 676.

7:15 PM - COSMO-SKYMED 1 - 3.1 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2007-023-A
This is my ninth observation of the Italian earth observation satellite, COSMO-Skymed 1.

7:18 PM - Resurs 1-4 Rocket - 1.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1998-043-G
This is my 24th sighting of this Zenit-2 Rocket aka "ye olde bright and faithful".

7:23 PM - IRAS - 5.3 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1983-004-A
This is my 3rd sighting IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite)

7:32 PM - Quadrantid meteor - -1.0 Magnitude
This was a bright orange shooting star that headed into the east.

7:38 PM - Cosmos 400 Rocket - 6.9 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1971-020-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket body which put Kosmos 400 into orbit. The significance of Kosmos 400 is that it was used by the Russians as a target (model name: DS-P1-M) to test anti-satellite missiles. Kosmos 400 was launched into orbit on March 18 1971. On April 4 1971, the Russians launched Kosmos 404 which intercepted and destroyed Kosmos 400. Debris from this intercept is still orbiting around the earth. HERE is a picture of what Kosmos 400 looked like.

7:44 PM - OAO 2 Rocket - 4.0 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1968-110-B
This is my first sighting of this Atlas-SLV3C Centaur-D rocket which put a Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) satellite into orbit. The Atlas SLV-3 was derived from the SM-65 Atlas missile, the first ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to ANYWHERE on earth. The Atlas SLV-3 was not very successful. Out of 5 launches, only 3 succeeded. But this rocket succeeded. The satellite that was put into orbit was OAO-2 aka Stargazer. There were four space observatories launched into orbit between 1966 and 1972. These observatories provided the first high-quality ultraviolet observations of many objects. Two of the four observatories failed. OAO-2 was NOT one of them. Carrying 11 ultraviolet telescopes, it performed observations until 1973 including discovering that comets are surrounded by giant halos of hydrogen.

7:49 PM - Cosmos 1674 - 4.0 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1985-069-A
This is my second sighting of Kosmos 1674, a Russian Tselina-D ELINT satellite.

7:51 PM - Quadrantid meteor - -1.0 Magnitude
This was a bright white shooting star that headed to the NW.

7:53 PM - Aureole 2 Rocket - 3.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1973-107-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket which was used to launched the Russian Aureole 2 satellite. Aureole 2 was designed to study the magnetosphere and the nature of polar aurora.

Here's the time-line for:
Date: 03-Jan-2011 Monday

6:21 AM - Yaogan 1 - 2.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2006-015-A
This is my second sighting of Yaogan 1, the Chinese remote sensing satellite.

6:28 AM - Ciel 2 Tank - 2.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2008-063-B
This is my first sighting of this Briz-M tank. It was part of the Proton-M launch of the Ciel-2 satellite, a Canadian commercial communications satellite. Here's more on the Ciel-2 satellite.

8:28 PM - Quadrantid meteor - 1.0 Magnitude
This shooting star was heading W to N (possibly not a quadrantid due to its direction)

Here's the time-line for:
Date: 04-Jan-2011 Tuesday

6:22 AM - Quadrantid meteor - 1.0 Magnitude
This shooting star was heading downward in the N

6:23 AM - Meteor 1-11 - 4.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1972-022-A
This is my first observation of Meteor 1-11, a Russian meteorological satellite. This satellite was one of many (30 plus) Meteor 1 type satellites. It was the first of 3 to be launched in 1972.

7:03 PM - COSMO-SkyMed 2 - 3.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2007-059-A
This is my sixth sighting of COSMO-Skymed 2, an Italian earth observation satellite.

7:12 PM - Aureole 2 Rocket - 3.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1973-107-B
This is my second sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket which was used to launched the Russian Aureole 2 satellite.

7:33 PM - Cosmos 2369 rocket - 2.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2000-006-B
This is my first sighting of this Zenit-2 rocket which was used to launch the Kosmos 2369 satellite. NASA believes this satellite is for Russian communications, however most websites believe this to be a Russian Tselina-2 ELINT satellite.

I managed to pick off 1968 and 1973 in this series of sessions. I still need to see satellites from the following years: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973, and 1979 ... oops and 2011 :-).

Monday, January 10, 2011

For some reason today, I thought about a couple of Saturday Night Live clips that I saw recently which cracked me up (and still crack me up) to the point of losing my breath. I'm sure I'm the only one who finds these clips that hilarious:

SNL's take on the Lawrence Welk Show, featuring Betty White (though that's not who I find hilarious in this clip, that would be Kristen Wiig as Dooneese)

This a clip about a veteran reporter with Herb Welch reporting. He seems to have some issues with the microphone:

Good weekend...

The Mrs and I got away from the little boogers for a b-day celebration for the wife. It was nice to get away, eat food without rushing, sleep in, see some friends etc. Grandma survived the weekend as well. She's a trooper and loves the kids and they love her, so everyone wins!

I have about 3 days of satellite observations that I need to get entered in... that will be posted in the coming days.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I'm sorry... but...

...Josh Groban cracks my shit up. First there was the song he did on ... the Emmy's where at one point he actually sang The South Park, Love Boat and Prince of Bel-Air themes (amongst many others). Then he did a cheezy tune with Ben Folds and has sang with him a couple of times on tour.

And now this... from the Jimmy Kimmel show. Josh Groban singing Kanye West's tweets.

I'm sorry, but Josh Groban is some funny shit. I'm glad he doesn't take himself very seriously. My wife dislikes him, not so much for his voice but because as she says "he rolls his eyes back into his head when he sings. i like josh groban as long as i don't have to watch him." :-P I admit, with the limited exposure I've had, I think his voice is quite good and can actually do more than his usual 'broadway' timbre.

He's the Kanye West thing which brought this post to fruition:

Here's the Emmy thing:

Ben Folds / Josh Groban - "Life is a Masquerade" (written as a joke. if you don't listen to the lyrics, the music and melody is quite good)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sun Dogs

I've seen a few weird sunlight phenomenon since moving to Marysville. I think it's mainly because on the drive home it's just lots of open fields and whatnot. Anyways, you see these things that look like mini-rainbows.

But yesterday was special. I nearly saw an entire CIRCLE rainbow. Screw that guy and his double rainbow crap, I saw what was nearly a rainbow in full circle.

And, by chance, I ran into a website this morning that told me that whis phenomenon (and the little rainbows as well) is called. They are called sun dogs.

This is approx what I saw yesterday, except that it was more completed and more rainbow like: