NEAR Captured on Camcorder in California

Robert Sheaffer (
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 23:37:05 -0800 (PST)

I observed the sun-glint off NEAR naked eye, and also captured it
on video. The bad news: it was about 2 magnitudes fainter than predicted, 
its maximum brightness equalling or very slightly exceeding that of 
Alpha Perseii (1.9). The good news: it was visible longer than predicted, 
seen on the video for almost two minutes.

I set up my six-year old JVC compact VHS-C video camcorder (model
GR-AX2, supposedly 1 LUX when the gain is turned up) on a tripod 
in my yard. It was set to maximum zoom (6x), auto-focus turned off,
manually focused to infinity. Observations were hampered by a
thin layer of clouds or haze, plus the usual light pollution in
San Jose. Time signals from WWV were played on my radio, and can
be heard on the soundtrack.

Amazingly, the limiting magnitude on the video is approximately 4.5. NEAR is
first seen on the video at 06:43:22 UT (23 Jan 1998). It slowly brightens 
to about magnitude 2 by about 06:44:00, then remains at or near that 
brightness for approx. 1 minute. It fades quickly, and disappears from 
the video at 06:45:10.  During this time it has covered most of the distance 
from Delta to Alpha Perseii.

I tried to spot it before and afterward in 20x80 binoculars, but did
not see it. It was not practical to try to A) work the video camera,
B) look with naked eye, and C) search with large binoculars, so I
mostly ignored C.

        Robert Sheaffer - - Skeptical to the Max!
               my GPS tells me I'm at 37 deg 17.3' N., 
                 121 deg 59.2' west (San Jose, CA) 

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