shuttle and mir
Sun, 31 Mar 96 16:49:04

 Hi Y'all - here's a summary of my observations of the STS 76
mission, with observed magnitudes following an abbreviated
Quicksat output for each pass.  I, too, saw Mir and Atlantis pass
very close (about 4 degrees above) that hairy star in the
northern skies, but, sorry Phil - I didn't get any photos! 
Because of its low northern altitude, I had to get up on my roof
(which has snow on it), and, clinging to an antenna, observe the
procession.  Shoot me if you wish, but better that than sliding
off the roof into the dog kennel! 
 39.8767 105.3910 8950. Coal Creek Canyon, CO
  H  M  S  Al AziC Dir  Mag Dys Hgt Shd  Rng 
 Mar 23  Sat   UT   2 3 1213
 11  6 18  33  16  125  -.6   1 247  18  429 Mir    mag. 2
 11 18 42  23   9  111  -.2   0 194  13  452 STS 76  mag. 0
 Mar 28  Thu   UT   2 8 12 4
 11 16 33  11 352C  90  1.8   7 247  94  859 Mir/Atlantis mag. 2
 Mar 31  Sun   UT   211 1159 
 11 41 54  13  14C  90  1.8   1 245 211  793 STS 76  mag. 4
 11 43 28  13  14C  90  1.7   3 247 215  789 Mir    mag. 3
 Atlantis seems extraordinarily faint during the 1141 UT pass
this morning, but that was its last orbit before landing at
Edwards, so the payload bays were closed, and, perhaps, the dark
tiles were facing me. 
 Dan Lazslo's comments about the STS 74 Atlantis-Mir mission are
interesting, since I also observed the pass at 1242 UT on
November 18, 1995, from Colorado (about half a degree of latitude
south of Dan).  Here's my observations of what I saw, rather than
what I expected, but first, an abbreviated Quicksat output:
 MIR/STS-74 1995
 Date        H M  Al  AziC  Mag 
 95/11/18   1241  21  218   -.1 
 95/11/18   1243  66  142C -2.0 
 95/11/18   1245  21   62    .8 
 The preceding object was magnitude 0, the following object
definitely brighter at magnitude -1.  The separation was 2
degrees as the objects rose in the southwest, 4 degrees at
culmination, and closing again as the objects set in the east. 
It seemed that overall, the trailing object was (apparently)
catching up to the leading object, suggesting that the trailing
object was lower.  The catching up effect could have been due to
the changing perspective rather than to a greater orbital
velocity.  I took a series of photos, but none are at the same
elevations "coming" and "going", so I can't say for sure whether
the objects were actually closing in. 
 As for which object was which, my visual impression was that the
trailing brighter object was Atlantis, but, of course, this
couldn't be, I figured, so in my log I put it down as Mir. 
Perhaps it was what it appeared to be - Atlantis following Mir! 
 Also, Dan, congratulations on your sighting of the STS-63
Discovery re-entry on Feb 11, 1995.  All I saw were re-entering
snow flakes.  I wish I had gone out to hear the sonic boom, but
it was so early and so cold....
 Ah, but I did see the re-entry of STS-73 Columbia on November 5,
1995.  Max elevation was only 12 degrees, but it reached
magnitude -2 and left an ion trail from horizon to horizon.  Of
course, it was the picture on my photo Christmas card last year! 
 cheers, Rich (