Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Sightings

The summer has not been as kind to satellite spotting as I had hoped. The sun sets late and the bugs are out. :( The bugs are what I don't like honestly. I can deal with the heat and humidity. But bugs getting into your eyes sucks.

Anyhoo... only two sessions in July.

The July 4th session occurred because the Mrs and I went out to watch the M'ville fireworks. She even spotted a satellite on her own just by looking into the sky. No chart or anything. I was so proud.

The July 31st sessions happened because I noticed that the moon wasn't out and the sky was clear. I went outside and looked until I saw a satellite... and it just happens that there was another satellite passing by in the exact same spot, so it was a two for one special. I sort of found a match for the N to S satellite, but the magnitude makes me doubt that this was the object, but I'm fairly certain that it wasn't an airplane, so I'll just accept the sighting as it is.


Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 04-July-2011 Monday

10:00 PM - Name: Resurs DK-1 - Magnitude: 2.5
Int'l Designator: 2006-021-A
This is my fourth sighting of Resurs DK-1, a Russian commercial earth observation satellite launched via a Soyuz-U (more specifically a Soyuz-FG. Resurs DK-1 was launched in June 2006 and was designed to last no less than 3 year and is expected to last 5 year. Which means, it could quite possibly already be space junk.

10:01 PM - Name: Orbcomm FM38 Rocket aka SL-8 R/B - Magnitude: 3.7
Int'l Designator: 2008-031-G
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket. This rocket was used to launch six satellites for Orbcomm, an American company which provides M2M (machine-to-machine) messaging and monitoring services.

10:30 PM - Name: Cosmos 1726 - Magnitude: 2.2
Int'l Designator: 1986-006-A
This is my first sighting of Kosmos 1726, a Russian Tselina-D ELINT satellite launched into orbit in 1986 using a Tsyklon-3 rocket. This is the satellite that my wife spotted before I did. I was so proud of her.

Here's the time-line for the evening of:
Date: 31-July-2011 Wednessay

11:12 PM - Name: ERS-2 - Magnitude: 3.1
Int'l Designator: 1995-021-A
This is my first sighting of ERS-2, a European remote sensing satellite. I thought I had seen this one before, but obviously I was wrong. The satellite was put into orbit using an Ariane 40 rocket in 1995. Thsi satellite contains instruments for measuring sea-surface and cloud-top temperatures, checking surface levels at sub-millimeter levels, wind speed and direction, ozone monitoring, and chlorophyll and vegetation levels. It blow my mind that something sitting in sun-synchronus orbit at around 780 km above earth can get SUB-MILLIMETER readings. Dang. The successor to ERS-2 is Envisat, which I have seen. ERS-2 has been operating without gyroscops since 2001 which has caused some data degradation. Additionally, it's tape drive died in 2003, so now the satellite can only communicate when it is in range of a ground station. ERS-2 was scheduled to operate through July 2011, when a few burns are set to lower the orbit of the satellite. The satellite should deorbit within the next 25 years.

11:15 PM - Name: 97051XP - Magnitude: 5.9
Int'l Designator: 1197-051-XP
This is my first sighting of this piece of space debris. This particular piece of debris came from the collision of Iridium 33 (and American communications satellite) and Kosmos 2251 (a retirned Russian Strela military communications satellite). The collision in 2009 caused a great deal of space debris (over 2000 pieces are currently being tracked) and, with the satellites travelling at a combined speed of 11.7 kilometer per SECOND (that's 26,170 mph), was the first accidental hypervelocity collision between two intact artificial satellites. Iridium 33 was operational, but Kosmos 2251 had been retired. The Russian government has not commented on if the satellite was out of control or not. Iridium spoke to the face that they do have a hard time keepgin track fo all of the near-collsion warnings as they get somewhere in the area of 400 near-collision messages a week.

No comments: