Mir In Twilight?

James Husnay Sr. (jhusnay@scsinet.com)
Thu, 11 Mar 1999 07:27:39 -0500

A funny thing happened on my way to seeing what I thought was going to
be my second daylight or or late twilight Iridium Flare. It was Iridium
53 and scheduled for 06:13:32 with a 12 degree -0m N pass. The Center at
31.3 W was to be a -8m. There was a break in the clouds and relatively
clear and a comfortable 17 degrees F. Not bad compared to the -25 and
-30 below windchill we've had for the past few early mornings and days
when it was clear. There were some high clouds to the west. So I thought
I'd give it shot.

06:13:32 came and nothing. I waited a couple of seconds before I looked
at my watch and as I rose my head at 06:32:38 it appeared. Six seconds
late I thought? It was bright and very close and at least 2 or more mag.
But I noticed immediately it was a steady bright and seemingly lasting
longer than the 2 or 3 seconds I'd expected and going in the wrong
direction NW to SE. It was the after 2 seconds sighting I realized it
wasn't the Iridium I thought I was going to see. Hey! This is really
cool, I was thinking. There's no way a satellite was going to be that
continuously bright I thought. If they were I'd be out every clear
morning watching them, we'd all be watching them. Then I surmised it had
to be Mir in the morning twilight.

I watched it 'til just past 06:15 and a few seconds and the really neat
part it didn't just fad down, it actually blinked out about 20 to 40
degrees past zenith. I don't calculate but the earlier Mir pass would
have been at 04:38:12 which pretty much say's I did see Mir in full
blown twilight. I don't know what the sun elevation was at the time but
sunrise was at 06:24. Maybe for those of us who don't have the means to
calculate or the time maybe it might be worth someone thinking about the
twilight passes of Mir. My thought is time fly's and the flying of Mir
before touchdown is coming in just 5 1/2 or 6 short months if they
decide to bring it down.

It was my first Mir twilight event and it was really worth observing.
For those of you who haven't seen Mir in the daylight you should, it was
really cool.