Visibility of Geosync Flashers

Robert Sheaffer (sheaffer@netcom.com)
Sun, 29 Sep 1996 09:47:29 -0700

(Extracted from a longer report on a COMPUSERVE forum:

>  A FEW MINUTES LATER, THREE OF US SCANNING AGAIN FOR 
>  HALE-BOPP, SPOTTED A FLASHING LIGHT WITH A REPETITION OF ABOUT 
>  10-12 SECONDS.  IT WAS LOCATED ABOUT ONE FIST LEFT OF HALE-BOPP 
>  TOWARDS
>  JUPITER (BEST SWAG), BUT IN THE SAME PIECE OF SKY AS THE LASER.  IT 
>  WAS NOT AN AIRCRAFT TYPE STROBE; TOO LONG A PERIOD.  IT DID SEEM 
>  TO BE AT A GREAT, BUT UNDETERMINED DISTANCE (NOT ATMOSPHERIC, I 
>  BELIEVE).  I DO RECALL SEEING SOMETHING SIMILAR LAST WINTER FLYING 
>  THE RED-EYE FROM LAX-JFK AT 39000FT, GIVE OR TAKE A COUPLE OF 
>  INCHES, SO IT PROBABLY WASN'T AN AIRBREATHER ABOVE US. (I'M AN 
>  AIRLINE PILOT, BUT I KNOW YOU WON'T HOLD THAT AGAINST ME).  WHILE 
>  DOING SOME STARGAZING, I AND ANOTHER CREWMEMBER  SAW THIS SAME 
>  INTENSITY LIGHT WITH THE NAKED EYE IN THE VICINITY OF ANDROMEDA.  
>  WHEN I SAW IT (TWICE), I THOUGHT I WAS ABOUT TO BE A WITNESS TO 
>  SOME RARE COSMIC EVENT LIKE A SUPERNOVA.  I HAD THE SAME 
>  THOUGHT THIS TIME, BUT NO SUCH LUCK ON BOTH.  

If you recall the history of this, all this attention started when
an observer linked into my satellite page from the San Jose Astronomical
Assn. web page, and mentioned to me that he had seen a 'Hale-Bopp' flasher.
I confirmed it, then others did. If that comet had not been where
it was, nobody would have NOTICED this thing. Plus, I too have
noticed the occasional odd flash in that region - probably other
old pieces of junk that occasionally catch the sun. My thesis is
that 

   A) Superbird A could probably be observed virtually anywhere in
   the world flashing for about ten minutes, if you look at
   the correct date, hour, and position (remember that it drifts
   around the world approximately once every six months); and 

   B) there is a lot of other junk up there giving us an occasional 
   or perhaps even a predictable flash. I seem to recall discussion of 
   an "Aries flasher" in _Sky and Telescope_ a few years ago; perhaps
   this is what the guy on Compuserve is referring to as a flasher
   'near Andromeda'. I think that an effort is in
   order to figure out likely positions from which flashes might be
   seen, and to scan likely locations for other flashers.

-- 

        Robert Sheaffer - robert@debunker.com - Skeptical to the Max!
     San Jose, California -  37 deg 17' 19" north, 121 deg 59' 09" west.

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