Re: Milstar 5 Titan 4/Centaur Launch

From: Ed Cannon (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 05:28:04 EST

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    It's SUPER that Rick Baldridge got to see and film the 
    venting "comet" and the two objects!  I hope that some 
    other folks got to see some of this event/these events.
    I got to the BCRC site (30.315N, 97.866W, 280m) about 45 
    minutes or so after Mike McCants, and when I got there 
    he was already tracking the Centaur and payload, which 
    were still joined, for a few more hours -- this was 
    around 8:30 p.m. CST (2:30 Jan 16 UTC).  So Mike tracked 
    them -- and I helped a little bit from time to time -- 
    all the way up.  As they were ascending, from time to 
    time we saw flashes two magnitudes brighter that proved 
    to be at three- and six-minute intervals.  Presumably it 
    was from the joined Centaur and payload being 
    spin-stabilized (in "barbecue mode") as they were 
    coasting to the geosynch height.
    We had a few crossing cirrus clouds and a real cloud 
    scare about 6:30 UTC, 30 minutes or so before the main 
    events, but finally the sky turned okay.  So we were 
    able in Mike's 8-inch (200mm) dobsonian scope, with a 
    very nice eyepiece that makes it about 80x if I remember 
    correctly, to watch the events.  There were some brief 
    events before 7:00 UTC that produced kind of rounded 
    hourglass shapes that dissipated rapidly.  There was a 
    different event that produced a trumpet-shaped plume 
    that I could see as a faint fuzzy comet with my 10x50 
    binoculars for maybe a couple of minutes.  Then we 
    watched and waited a while.  At some point it became 
    possible to see that there were two objects very close 
    together, one fainter and different in color.  Then 
    finally came the main event, the venting and the main, 
    brighter, longer-lasting "comet".  For a few minutes 
    it was about +2.5 magnitude; I was still able to see 
    it faintly in my 10x50 binoculars at about 8:22 UTC.  
    Towards the end of its visibility, it went only a 
    couple of degrees north of Alphard (alpha HYA).  Some 
    minutes after the plume (the "comet") appeared, the 
    second object reappeared from being obscured by -- I 
    assume! -- the plume.  So then Mike tracked the two 
    of them for a while, until it was time to give it up 
    for the night.
    It was quite exciting, and I am very privileged and
    appreciative to get to go observing such an event with 
    an expert.  Thanks Mike!
    We saw some easy one-power Telstar 401 flashes beginning
    sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 UTC.  I haven't got the 
    data from my stopwatch yet.
    Ed Cannon - - Austin, Texas, USA
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