Re: possible decay obs of 97-38C ?

Alan Pickup (
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 21:28:13 +0100

As you say, Kurt, it wasn't 97- 38 C. I calculate that this decayed a
few hours ago, but long after the "decay" observation. I attempt to
monitor the elements for all known unclassified satellites which are
approaching decay, and I don't know of any which decayed between the
Pegasus debris object #24366 (94- 29 PT) at about August 4.2 and today's
decay of 97- 38 C. Incidentally, I calculate that another chunk of
Pegasus debris, #24395 (94- 29 QY) will decay at about August 7.95.

You write
>>Just after the zenith (elevation of 80 degrees) it faded away.
>>It took about 2 to 3 seconds to go from elevation +25  to the zenith.
>>It went from about (alfa 13h50, delta +21) to (alfa 17h40, delta +46).
>>observed at : 51 degr, 11 min N, 4 degr, 31 min E, 5m ASL
>This object was also observed by Koen Geukens as mentioned by Tristan:
>>>A friend of another mailing list was posting a possible re-entry obs of a
>>>unknown object.  He saw a bright moving object with tail passing close to
>>>Arcturus and continueing its path from West to East before exploding into a
>>>fireball somewhat further.

I think the key here is the statement that "It took about 2 to 3 seconds
to go from elevation +25  to the zenith". This is an angular velocity of
some 20 degrees per second or more, which is much too high for a
decaying satellite unless it was about to fall on you :-)

I suspect that the object was a bright meteor or fireball, though the
correct term for a meteor which terminates in an explosion is a
"bolide". A number of meteor showers are active at the moment, though I
don't know of any with a radiant consistent with your reported track.

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