Iridium 4 at -2 magnitude!

Dr.Brian Hunter (bkh@chem.QueensU.CA)
Sat, 16 Aug 1997 10:13:59 -0400 (EDT)

Observation date:  1997 08 15  UT
Observation Location: 44.2357N   76.5113W   98 metres

I was observing on Thursday evening when my attention was drawn to a very 
bright object in the northeast.  It is difficult to give a reasonable 
estimate of the brightness but it was much brighter than Jupiter.  The 
magnitidude -2 is only  a guess for 'WOW that's bright'.  It stayed very 
bright for several seconds and then faded slowly.  As it faded, I picked 
it up in my 80 mm f/5 telescope at 32X.  It faded to a bit less than 6th 
magnititude by the time it passed 2 degrees above kappa pegasus at 
01:54:31 +/- 1 second.   The timing is dead on for Iridium 4 ( 97 020E, 
24796) and the brightness is typical of the Iridium satellites.  I have 
observed all of the first batch.  

Has anyone else seen such brightness from an Iridium?   I think so.

On August 2, 1997, Leigh Palmer reported an unusual observation from 
Vancouver the evening before.  I ran Quicksat for his location to find 
the time for his suspicion that he was seeing Cosmos 1953.  Within a 
minute of the prediction for Cosmos 1953, I find Iridium 5 within a few 
degrees at culmination.  Running Skymap, Iridium 5 ( 97 020D, 24795) was 
within about 2 degrees of the Cosmos 1953 position a minute earlier.  The 
only problem with this conclusion is that, if I read Leigh's message 
properly, is that the timing is now out by two minutes rather than one.

The observations are remarkably similar. To quote Leigh:

"I saw the landing light of a plane in what I thought a most unlikely 
direction.  It grew brighter, much brighter (estimates are difficult for 
objects this bright, but mag -4 or so) and then faded rapidly and wimped 
(not winked) out about a minute later."

Sounds familiar.  Furthermore, I have seen Cosmos 1953 10 times and have 
recorded it as 'naked eye', or 'flasher about 9 seconds'. I've never seen 
it exceptionally bright or managed to get a good timing of the flashes.  
Mind you, I don't seem to be able to get good flash timings of anything.

Cheers,

Brian



Brian K. Hunter                           bkh@chem.queensu.ca
Professor of Chemistry                    Phone: (613)-545-2620
Queen's University                        Fax:   (613)-545-6669
Kingston, Ontario    K7L 3N6  Canada