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.

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