MOS 1 race opponent

Luc Fontaine (
Wed, 17 Jul 1996 20:59:54 -0400 wrote:
> 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
> suburbs).
> 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 (

Hello Jim,

	 Helped by the Mike McCants "alldat.tle" elsets file (7000+ objects), I
found only 1 object to be, I think, the one you're searching for.

It's KFengYun 1B Pc (#20847, 1990- 81K), a debris of the launcher CZ-4
(launched the Sept 3 1990). It was, like you said, in a very near
parallel path with MOS 1 in that time. And the CZ-4 DEB is faster just
like you said, it won the race!

Luc Fontaine
Sts-Anges, PQ