The Ghost of Cosmos 2343

Alan Pickup (
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 22:10:42 +0100

Scene I - the SeeSat-L mailing list, September 19.

I post a message suggesting that Cosmos 2343 had been de-orbited on
September 18, reporting two elsets (in fact, the last two to be
published). I soon learn, via emails and a posting here by Phillip
Clark, that the object had been blown up at the end of its mission. To
quote Phillip "Some debris reached out to around 900 km apogee, but it
is unlikely that the debris will reach the satellite catalogues which
"mere mortals" like us can see !"

Scene II - The Royal Observatory Edinburgh (the ROE), today (September

Reports arrive from the Police, Coastguard, newspapers, radio & TV
stations and direct from the general public of "flares", "rockets",
"comet-like object" falling quickly from the *daytime* morning sky,
leaving a trail of "smoke" visible for some minutes. There are
suggestions of a terminal explosion and are definite reports (confirmed
by sensors run by the British Geological Survey) of sonic effects such
as rattling windows and a rumbling noise from an area around the Moray
Firth, about 200 km N of Edinburgh. Initial reports from the Police were
of several objects being seen but, from what I can gather, no witness
saw more than one object. In my opinion, all the reports can be
satisfied by there being a single widely observed event. The object
appears to have been well N of Edinburgh, slanting downwards *to the
left* (ie with a westerly component to its motion) and visible for a few
seconds at most.

In the absence of the ROE's usual PR guru, I was press-ganged into
fielding the ROE's response to the reports, eventually doing two TV news
interviews and others for a stream of local radio stations. I checked
the current status of the objects on my SatEvo decay list and confirmed
that no catalogued object was likely to be decaying today - certainly no
large object (Lewis, though not that large, seems destined to decay
about September 27, or perhaps 28). I also considered the possibility
that it might have been a surviving chunk of Cosmos 2343, but my
calculations placed its orbital plane some 600 km too far to the SW at
the reported time. Close but no cigar. (I double-checked these calcs
tonight, but would someone care to confirm :-) ) And, of course, it
would not have shown a westerly component to its motion.

For the interviews, then, I was confident enough to state my belief that
the event was a bright meteor or fireball, rather than a re-entering
satellite. It is rare, of course, since very few daytime fireballs are

Scene III - newsrooms, about 18:30 this evening.

"Within the past hour, security sources report that the lights seen over
Scotland today were caused by debris from an exploded Russian satellite
burning up as it re-entered the atmosphere". I understand that the
source is the Home Office and, of course, the satellite is Cosmos 2343.

So - do any SeeSaters, or their contacts, have confirmatory data
regarding Cosmos 2343 and/or its offspring? Or is this a case of the
Home Office having to find an explanation (any explanation) to placate a
public gorged on UFOlogy?

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