Discovery Flare and Corona Australis from Dunedin, NZ

From: Alexander M (
Date: Tue Mar 20 2001 - 14:33:54 PST

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    Hello to all,
    Yesterday evening I realised amazed that at around 19:48 local time a 
    tripple pass of Discovery->Soyus-> and ISS starts, and this in less than 30 
    seconds seperation. So I rushed out, grapped the car and drove down to the 
    St Kilda Beach (170.513E 45.903S +/-250m), where it is a bit darker by the 
    dunes. I arrived in time and with the sun just about 11 deg. below the 
    horizon, the sky in the West was still a bit glowing.
    Discovery came very nice from the South West and ‘climbed’ the sky trailed 
    by the ISS, couldn’t see Soyus because forgot the binocs and it was to close 
    to the ISS, Heavens-above:
    STS-102 -0.2 19:47:30 10deg SW 19:50:30 38deg SSE
    Soyus    3.8 19:47:57 10deg SW 19:51:02 39deg SSE
    ISS      0.3 19:47:58 10deg SW 19:51:03 39deg SSE
    Then suddenly at 19:50:12 +/-3 sec the leading Discovery flared for about 1 
    second, from the normal about 0 magnitude to –5 or –6, the flaring was 
    instantly, not like the Iridia with increasing and decreasing brightness for 
    seconds. What was that?
    Are they any pictures of tripletts in the sky of a Shuttle + space station + 
    cargo ship?
    During this observations I allready wonderd why the sky in the area just 
    below the arc of the spacecrafts was slightly green, but very faint, like 
    some cloud, and there was still some light in the West, where the sun did 
    set. After the passes I stayed a bit longer and it was worth it. The lights 
    devoloped to a beatiful Corona Australis, my first polar Lights ever. I can 
    confirm there was a geomagnetic storm, and what a beatiful one. Nearly all 
    the time from then I saw vertical stripes or faint red bars, coming from 
    about 50 deg alt down to 10 deg leading to the green/red lights that reached 
    down to about 3 degrees above the southern horizon. Later on it changed form 
    often and started to dance sometimes. And a long time there was these nice 
    green semi-arc, certainly around the magnetic South Pole. I watched that for 
    about 90 minutes, because I went home after the second pass for last night 
    of the STS/ISS pair. The Asto/Cosmonauts up there must have had a nice view 
    on the lights from above.
    Not to forget to mention one of the most beatiful meteors for me at 19:57:37 
    in the South, coming straight down from 50 deg to 15 deg in about 4 seconds 
    with a 15 deg or so long tail that changed colour serveral times with green, 
    red, yellow, orange. It was going very nice to the Corona Australis and 
    vanished just above it. Maybe the diffrent colors where caused/influenced by 
    the corona Australis?
    Thank you to the man from Canberra/Australia too, that I met on the beach 
    road, who is in the Australian Astronomical Society. During whatching the 
    lights we talked and he said he doesn’t like satellites that much, because 
    they sometimes screw up the astronomical pictures.
    All times are local NZST (UTC+12).
    Alexander Marschand
    Dunedin, New Zealand
    45.8670S 170.5000E 20m NZST (UTC+12:00)
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