JAWSAT spectacular!! (fwd)

From: Jim Scotti (jscotti@LPL.Arizona.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 20:17:38 PST

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       I thought this might interest our SeeSat readers as well, a report from
    my colleague Joe Montani who watched the launch from Tucson.  I may have
    seen the reddish object as well - it looked much like a military flare
    that I occasionally see in the western/northwestern sky from here (over
    the Goldwater Gunnery Range).  What I saw lasted only a few seconds and
    appeared about a minute before the large plume (L shaped is a good
    description which Joe provides below for that plume).  I dismissed it at
    the time as unrelated since it was so far south of the usual direction of
    Vandenberg launches as they first appear here on Kitt Peak.  Later,
    however, with my binoculars, I looked in that area and saw a zig-zag
    shaped trail - again, I don't know if it was related to the launch.  I
    don't know if what I saw was going up or down (if it was the same thing,
    Joe thought it was going up), so I wondered if it might be part of the
    rocket re-entering the atmosphere? 
       One other thought - the plume appeared very suddenly and was already
    several degrees across as it appeared.  Was the plume rising into sunlight
    or was it some sort of flourescent phenomenon making it appear?  I'm
    imagining it is a plume rising relatively unconstrained by any atmosphere
    and perhaps later falling back down onto the top of the atmosphere after
    following a ballistic trajectory. 
       I have to echo Joe's sentiment of thanking those who made the list
    aware of the impending launch - without such notices, we would be
    unprepared to go out and look. 
    Jim Scotti                              
    Lunar & Planetary Laboratory         jscotti@lpl.arizona.edu 
    University of Arizona                520/621-2717 
    Tucson, AZ 85721 USA                 http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~jscotti/    
    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 20:36:16 -0700 (MST)
    From: Joe Montani <jmontani@lpl.arizona.edu>
    To: jscotti@lpl.arizona.edu
    Subject: JAWSAT spectacular!!
    Dear Jim,
    Thank you very much for the information about the JAWSAT launch time
    tonight.  I went out a few minutes before the appointed time, to view
    from the flat roof of my house, with clear Western horizon in mid-Tucson
    to the Tucson mountains about 8-10 miles west of me.  Wind was strong
    from the west, and quite humid, so transparency was not as good as earlier
    in the day, before cumulus clouds near sunset covered the sky.  Although
    the cumulus evaporated, the humidity climbed, and transparency suffered.
    Well... about 5 degrees altitude and about 280 deg AZ, I began to see a
    red, rising point of light about the color of Mars (which was conveniently
    available for comparison at about AZ 255), and rapidly became brighter than Mars.
    That was about 8:04 or 8:05 MST.  The red accelerating point disappeared
    without ceremony (I used no optical aid, even though I was at home and
    have lots of it of various kinds available, nor did I bring a camera to
    the roof).  After another minute, an "L"-shaped cloud began to form, of
    ghostly white color.  The extensions of the "L" stretched due North and
    due East, and the cloud moved south.  It did not seem that any point of light
    or anthing else was at the apex or intesection of the arms of the "L".
    Was it just a moving plasma cloud?  Or had a second stage ignited and begun
    to leave such a "trail?"  The "L" grew in size and in the thickness of its
    arms, until it became larger in length of its arms than the sides of the
    Great Square of Pegasus (also conveniently in the sky for comparison, at
    about AZ 280 deg).  Finally, the "L" became so large that its surface
    brightness dimmed so much that I could no longer see it.  By that time,
    it had passed south of Mars.
    The time I "quit" was 8:12 PM MST, and I saw no more manifestations of
    the launch.  I will try to see the satellites, and can probably use the
    TLE set posted before launch, since the launch seemed to be perfectly
    What a treat!  Thanks again, Jim.  I'm sure you saw MORE in the darks
    dark skies of Kitt Peak, and I hope it was clear.
    --Joe Montani
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