Nova Aquilae + unexpected satellite

Matson, Robert (
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 18:09:30 -0800

Hi Mark,

> Off-topic: seesaters everywhere may be interested in a bright new nova
> in Aquila! Near the equator, good for people in N & S hemispheres. It
> was found at magnitude 6, magnitude 3.7 recently and is still
> brightening. An easy target for unaided eye even in suburban skies.

Just checked it out from work -- skies are pretty light-polluted
here, with a limiting magnitude of about +3.6.  The nova was
visible to the upper right of 3.4-mag delta-Aquilae, perhaps
a tad dimmer (3.5?)  Beta-Aquilae, despite being higher in
the sky is not visible at magnitude +3.7.

While trying to block out the glare from street lights, I
spotted an unexpected bright satellite high in the south (>50 deg
elevation angle), moving west to east near culmination.  It was
slightly orange in color, and at least magnitude 0, prompting
me to think at first that it was one of the Lacrosses.  But
quickly I realized it couldn't be -- wrong inclination.  I should
point out that before heading outside to look for the nova, I
had done a SkyMap all-satellite search in case anything bright
was expected to fly by.  Nothing brighter than magnitude +3.5
was predicted prior to the Mir pass at ~18:32 PST, so I knew
what I saw was unusual.  Over the next 20 seconds, the satellite
slowly dimmed (despite the improving sun angle) so I knew it
was a glint of some sort.

I returned to my computer, reran the search with a relaxed magnitude
requirement, and voila! -- Astro D (#22521) was the culprit.  The
brightest I'd ever seen it before was +5.0, and the expected peak
magnitude for this pass was only supposed to be +5.5.  Has anyone
else observed such a flare-up before from Astro D?  --Rob

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