Re: Pinpoint flashes
Wed, 17 Jul 1996 16:02:02 -0400

In Jim Varney's 7/16 comments on this topic, he noted: 

>>>>>I also saw Cosmos 1900 glint in the west and northwest. A few days ago I
watched USA 81 show what must have been 10 small glints in a half-second (it
looked like an arcing electrical connection), also in the west.  Notice that
all three of these objects are payloads<<<<<.

Ted Molczan picked up on something else, responding:

>>>>>The two kh-11s I have observed in the early (western) orbital plane
(84122A and 88099A), both exhibited bright glints and flare-ups for a few
seconds at about azimuth 300 deg, and elevation 50 deg, so they fit this
pattern too. Too bad they are no longer in orbit.<<<<< 

Having observed USA 81 (thanks to Walter Nissen's list, which I've come to
treat as an ongoing homework assignment), I agree with Jim Varney that it
seems to reach a point high in its northern path where it becomes, as I
jotted down in my notes, a "sparkler."  Though I did not see the the two
kh-11 satellites Ted noted, at least as far as MOS 1, USA 81 and Cosmos 1900
go, in addition to being payloads, they all also travel from south to north
(if that means anything).  

USA 81's sparkles certainly appear like one might see in reflections off a
mirrored globe.  However, with MOS 1's and Cosmos 1900's pinpoint flashes,
assuming they have solar panels aligned to face the sun, we might be seeing
glints off their rear ends (giving new meaning to the word "flasher;" a more
fitting term in their case might be "mooner").  In any event, perhaps these
mid-northern elevations (either sky, latitude, or both) where these glints
and sparkles seem to occur represent a zone of "peculiar geometry," using
Walter Nissen's phrase.

Also as Walter noted, "At first I might have confused them (pinpoint flashes)
with the momentary reflections of lights, familiar to every wearer of
glasses, when moving 
the head.  But over time I saw a few which definitely had no explanation
other than a momentary light from the sky."  My experience has been very
similar - I too wear glasses and had come to dismiss most of the transient
sky flashes I have seen since becoming a regular satellite spotter as being
reflections due to my glasses - or even high flying fireflies.  But, like
Walter, there have been a number of such flashes for which these explanations
did not seem to apply to.   And (a purely subjective observation on my part)
most of these, if not all, seemed to occur in the northern sky (again, for
those who may have missed my previous post, I live in the Washington DC

In response to Jim Varney's request that "if (I) see any other satellites
with "weird" behavior, be sure and share it with us." 

Again, as a newcomer to SeeSat, and starting off by concentrating on
"shooting fish in a barrel," one of the problems is not knowing when to point
out to the veterans that out one of those fish you've been eying is a
cealocanth (sp?).  You can be assured, Jim, if I spot another "weird" one,
I'll let everyone know.   ;-)

Lastly, thanks, Jim, for the "welcome" to the list.  Unfortunately, like many
new arrivals to a gathering, let me quickly wear out my welcome a bit by
immediately asking for a favor ;-).

I too was out observing MOS 1 last night and saw something I have never seen
before.   During its pass over my yard (39N, 77W; mid-pass occurring
approximately 10:28:30 p.m. EDT, 7/16) I noticed MOS 1 had brought along a
friend.  During its entire pass, there was a second satellite no more than
two or three degrees to its west (both satellites easily fitting in the same
binocular field), on an almost precisely parallel path, matching MOS 1's
speed exactly (this second unidentified satellite may have won by a nose at
the end).  It was much like watching a NOSS triangle, with one bird missing.
 This second satellite was like a shadow, being, oh, two magnitudes or so
fainter than MOS 1 (I could not see it naked-eye, though sky conditions were
not great last night).   It also evidenced a similar glinting pattern to MOS
1's, though once again these were proportionally dimmer.   I'm curious if
anyone else saw these two pass last night as well?  

I checked to try to identify the second satellite using the Skychart 2000
planetarium program and displaying the satellites in Ted Molczan's 6/27
element list, but found nothing coming anywhere close MOS 1's vicinity at the
time.   Could I ask you, Jim, with your 1300+  satellite list (or anyone else
wishing to help out for that matter) to see if you can ID this second bird
for me?  (Thanks  - it's appreciated ;-)

- Jim Cook (