On Jan 23, 1998, starting at 06:22 UT, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) space craft was maneuvered to provide reflective "Sunglints" from its solar arrays to various portions of the US as it approached Earth on its Earth-Swing-By (ESB). It was *expected* that the brightness of these reflective glints would be as bright as magnitude 0 for up to 30 seconds to observers near the center of the reflection. The glints were expected to be visible for a few seconds for areas outside the targeted area. The star Capella (Ra 5 hr 16min, Dec 45.9 deg.) is magnitude 0 and will be approximately 20 degrees above and slightly to the right of NEAR during the Sunglint maneuver. This page attempted to inform who can observe these Sunglints because of their location and where they should be looking to observe these brief reflective glints from NEAR.Observation reports so far on SeeSat-L indicate that the brightness of NEAR was a couple of magnitudes dimmer than predicted although longer in duration. This could be an indication that the solar array were not perfectly aligned and each was contributing its each own reflective glint instead of a collective brighter glint.
*Images from NEAR of the Earth (and Moon) as it moved away from Earth's southern hemisphere are available now.
The NEAR home page provided vectors to readers which are not compatible with the programs most satellite observers use to predict Earth satellite passes. Some subscribers to SeeSat-L have provided programs and additional information that will develop celestial coordinates with the vector information provided on the NEAR home page . These programs will also provide local elevation and azimuth directions for the user's actual location.
The Minor Planet Center (at the request of Dr. David Dunham) is providing a link for topocentric ephemerides for the NEAR space craft. Enter your local geographical coordinates.
*The JPL's Horizons Ephemeris Generator is providing topocentric ephemerides for the NEAR space craft. It appears that azimuth in this program is measured from the geographic true SOUTH in a clockwise direction. You will need to add 180 degrees to the calculated value to obtain azimuth measured from the geographic true NORTH.
Here's an important NEAR page to visit frequently for new and updated star charts. The NEAR homepage has provided a sketch of a star chart in the area of the constellation Perseus with stars shown down to magnitude 6 ALONG with the location of NEAR for various US cities during the Sunglint maneuvers.
The first planned Sunglint started at 06:24 UT on Jan 23 for the southern New England and eastern New York state area. At that time NEAR was approximately 25,500 km above the surface of Earth over the northern Pacific (lat 40N, long 214E). It was rapidly approaching (29,000 km/hr) and accelerating towards its nearest encounter to Earth of 536 km over southwestern Iran at 07:22:56 UT on Jan 23. The observed location of NEAR in the constellation Perseus was expected to change approximately 20 degrees for the East Coast US. It travelled in a decreasing altitude and diagional move to the right (further west) during the 25 minutes of Sunglint maneuvers for various areas of the continental US and Hawaii.
Dr. David Dunham posted a message to SeeSat-L and others on Jan 17 with further details on observing the Sunglint from the NEAR spacecraft. An additional web site (1) provided some additional and duplicate information on the Sunglint maneuver.
On Jan 20 Dr. Dunham posted an additional message to SeeSat-L and others giving further details, pointers, a geocentric ephemeris for NEAR and a revision of time lines for the Sunglints.
On Jan 21 Dr. Dunham posted another message to SeeSat-L and others providing further updates planned for the NEAR home page.
Early on Jan 22 Dr. Dunham posted another message to SeeSat-L and others providing further updates, including a report on an initial observation of NEAR.
One of the programs used by some SeeSat-L subscribers to observe Iridium satellite flares is by Randy Johns. You can find instructions to plot NEAR's trajectory in posting 1 and posting 2 by Craig Cholar to SeeSat-L.
This program called "jan23.zip" has been modified by Mike McCants. His instructions are found in a posting to SeeSat-L.
This program NEARJWH.ZIP utilizes the ground track data from the NEAR page to produce local celestial coordinates and altitude/azimuth** coordinates for the user.
**It appears that azimuth in this program is measured from the geographic true SOUTH in a clockwise direction. You will need to add 180 degrees to the calculated value to obtain azimuth measured from the geographic true NORTH.
If you have an astronomy program that uses helio-centric orbital elements to predict planetary motions, or if you can use Earth centered elements, there are planned and actual elements for NEAR's various maneuvers including elements following the correction maneuver TCM-8 for the Earth-Swing-By (ESB).