First Iridium Obs. for me: 25 Aug 97, 12:37 UTC

JRBURCA@aol.com
Mon, 25 Aug 1997 09:55:18 -0400 (EDT)

My scientific satellite observing measurements and skills are sorely
lacking but for what it's worth:

Using Ron Lee's Iridium elements (Aug 21 post), I observed, for the
first time, several Iridiums (I think 4), in close succession.  Each one
flared in succession for several seconds when each reached a point
perhaps 20-30 degrees above the ssw horizon.  I compared the maximum
flare magnitude with Saturn (which I'd been looking at earlier through
my telescope).  I would say that the max. flare was brighter than 
Saturn and Rigel, perhaps as bright as Sirius.  After the max. flare,
each, in succession, stayed relatively bright for a few seconds gradually
dimming until they could not be seen.  I had 8x56 binoculars and took
a couple of quick looks but was afraid of missing a flare so watched 
mostly naked eye.  I never saw any after the flare phase; maybe I could
have with the binoculars but I was still trying to digest the spectacle of
3 or 4 satellites, in close sucession, each flaring up at the same point
in the sky.  Having seen two Vandenberg Iridium launches - the first
from 6 miles away and the second from a mountain top 120 miles away,
now, I've finally seen some Iridium satellites.  I didn't see the launch of
these Iridiums just launched Wed. because of clouds and/or an inadequate
view of the horizon.  Thanks SeeSaters for the info.  I'll be looking for
more
Iridium flares in the coming days.

The observation was Aug. 25, 1997 at approx. 12:37 UTC (5:37 AM PDT).

A side-note: a few minutes earlier, probably 12:33-36 UTC, I saw some
other satellite flare going north-to-south in approx. the same part of the
sky.  At first I thought it was HST which was supposed to make a 40
degree high pass around 12:40 UTC but then realized it was going in
the wrong direction.  I forgot to look for HST after seeing the Iridium
flares.
This other unknown satellite was, of course, going in the opposite direction
from the Iridiums that showed a few min. later.

Jake Rees
Burbank, Calif.
(longitude -118.3117, latitude 34.1817)