Mystery streaks

Mike McCants (
Fri, 29 Mar 1996 00:02:23 -0600

First I will select part of Allen Thomson's post of the newsgroup posts:

>Location:  Huntsville, Alabama
>Date:  3/24/95
>Time:  1:05 - 1:20 AM CST

>I noticed a bright, cloud-like streak (naked eye, perpendicular to the horizon 
>- a little brighter than Hyakutake) approx. 1-2 deg long x 1/4 deg wide (whit 
>in color ) located close to the open bowl of the big dipper below the line 
>pointing to Polaris (RA 10h 30m, Dec 66 d 30 m).  It moved against the 
>background stars during the time it was visible (approx. 4 deg horizontally 
>orbital test of some sort (similar to a barium cloud release) or maybe 
>propellant dumping from a rocket booster.  Anyone else see this or know what 

>I was assisting at the New England Science Center in Worcester, MA Saturday 
>night, and a group of us saw the soemthing similar. This was around 11PM or so.
>We actually saw several of the 'streaks', including one like the one you 
>field, and were visible for at least an hour, or so. The brightest was just 
>below the bowl of Ursa Major, within the boundary of Ursa Major (very close to 
>the Zenith.)

Now I will select part of Ted Molczan's file:

>Venting Observed from Titan IV's Centaur Stage  (May, 1994)
>Having analyzed the preliminary Centaur orbits produced by Mike McCants
>and Joel Runes, I am now absolutely convinced that the diffuse object
>seen over Europe was in fact from the Titan/Centaur mission, and I am
>reasonably convinced that there were two Centaur burns after orbital
>insertion; the first raised the apogee, the second changed the
>inclination and raised the perigee.

>The first orbit below is based upon my assumption of a 57 degree,
>300 km high parking orbit, converted to a 300 km x 39080 km orbit by an
>instantaneous impulse at about 57 deg S latitude, about 60 minutes
>after launch.

Now I will put the two together and suggest that the Alabama and
Massachusetts observations could have been a rocket venting at
the normal apogee altitude 23000 miles = 37000 Km for a 12 hour
eccentric "Molniya-type" orbit.  Such an event is very bright.
The cloud would be almost "geostationary" and would thus move
slowly compared to the background stars.  And it could persist for
two hours.

Mike McCants