Was this an iridium flare?

From: gacrowell (gacrowell@micron.com)
Date: Wed Mar 06 2002 - 16:59:47 EST

  • Next message: Patrice Scattolin: "Re: Was this an iridium flare?"

    Hi folks, I am new to this list.  Satellite observing is not a hobby of
    mine, tho I have gone out to see this ISS a few times and such.  I have
    never seen an Iridium flare; never looked for one, tho I am looking now.
    What prompted this post was this news item on CNN a few weeks ago:
    www.cnn.com/2002/US/02/20/pilot.rocket/index.html   which supposedly is a
    report of a suspected model rocket fired at an airliner.
    Model and amateur rocketry -is- my hobby, and many folks in it were
    concerned with this report.  We have plenty of government regulation as it
    is, and don't need an incident such as this to stir things up further.
    There are many reasons for us to believe that this could not have been a
    model or amateur rocket, but its hard to convince those that are not
    familiar with the hobby.
    It occurred to me just today that this might have been an Iridium Flare.
    The incident was on 17 Feb, 7:10 PM EST, reported as 12 miles SE of the
    Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while flying at 3000 feet.
    Using some online maps, I came up with that location as approximately
    -76.442, 39.082, and used that in the heavens-above flare predictor.  It
    resulted in a flare at:
    19:05:51 EST, magnitude -5, altitude 23 degrees, azimuth 317 degrees, from
    Iridium 31.
    I also found that the flare track would be ascending, headed from WNW to N.
    If the aircraft were headed NW towards the airport (I don't have those
    details of the report), the flare would have been directly in front of him.
    I figure the time reported in the article might have been the time the
    report was made, so it matches pretty well.
    So, its my thought, that to the pilot, the flare might have looked like a
    small rocket exhaust nearby.  Is this plausible?  I would value any
    Thanks in advance,
    Gary Crowell
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