Geo Naked Eye Flaring

From: Bill (
Date: Tue Jul 05 2011 - 15:01:25 UTC

  • Next message: Kevin Fetter: "Re: Geo Naked Eye Flaring"

    We have been noticing there's a Geosynchronous Satellite flaring to 2nd 
    magnitude in Aquila (from our location in Erie PA USA 41.853881 -79.956959) for 
    the last several nights.  Please see the observing report below from our Astro 
    Club Pres. which was written Saturday July 2, 2011.
    "He's referring to that same 2nd magnitude stellar object that I spotted in  
    Aquila two nights earlier at Bisbee Observatory. It reappeared again last night  
    (Friday 7/1/11) in nearly the same spot, but this time we were ready for it, and 
    acted. I  suspected that the intruder was a naked-eye geo-stationary satellite 
    with the  sun hitting it just right, but we couldn't prove that on Wednesday 
    night because  we had no stationary telescope. Well, last night all 3 scopes 
    went to the object  and we proved that it was, in fact, geo-stationary, as we 
    watched the stars  stream past the satellite, while the satellite itself 
    remained centered in the  FOV.   It stayed at 2nd magnitude for about 5 minutes 
    then began a slow fade  with it's apparent eastward motion. Bill followed it in 
    the 24 inch down to  about 10th magnitude.  It "moved" (or rather the sky moved) 
    from star 26 Aquilae  eastward to star 42 Aquilae from 2350 until about 0010 
    hours during our 20  minutes of following it.  Bill is currently researching to 
    figure out which one  it is, out over the Atlantic Ocean.  This was a big 
    surprise to all, because it  was thought that all geo-stationary satellites were 
    not naked eye, but now  evidently some are. So be ready for any 2nd magnitude 
    star  to suddenly "pop into view" around the equatorial regions.  Know where the 
    sun  is below the horizon and keep an eye on the opposite direction from the 
    sun. "
    I've been out of the (very active) satellite observing hobby for quite some 
    years, but  remember hearing about this phenomenon back then.  Never saw it 
    then,  so this was a very special time for me to see this one satellite rising  
    to naked eye visibility.
    The area we're talking about is (as of Friday 7/1/11, and from our location) 
    RA/Dec 19h 27m 52.1s  -4* 49' 04", apparent Alt/Az 34* 10' 09"  138* 34' 08".  I 
    searched the immediate vicinity (couple degrees) for other GEO's but none were 
    spotted.  I have in the past located some GEO's in my 24" scope over in the SW 
    sky, and then located 4 or 5 others in the area forward and aft, but like I 
    said, this one appeared to be alone, and I was using my 24" f/4 scope so I 
    should have picked up something.
    And here is another observing report from him earlier this morning 7/5/11...
    "It was out there again tonight (I was just naked-eye at my  home)...5 minutes 
    later at 11:58 pm and farther east of V Aquilae, like 5 or 6  degrees, and only 
    3rd magnitude tonight... (I know, it's the night sky moving  westward at the 
    same time, not the geo satellite)....  but not as bright,  probably because the 
    sun angle is slowly changing."
    Questions:  Does anyone know which satellite exhibits this behaviour?  Or do 
    How would I track down which satellite it is?
    Many thanks,
    Bill Mitchell
    "It is often better to keep one's mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it 
    and remove all doubt"
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