We saw the Centaur fuel dump!

Mike McCants (mikem@fc.net)
Sat, 8 Nov 1997 02:19:04 -0600 (CST)

Ed Cannon and I drove about 20 miles north to a spot where
the clouds were not covering the predicted location for
the Centaur fuel dump.  Ed spotted the fuel dump gas cloud
about 4:39UT.  Initially it was about 1 degree in diameter
and about 1st magnitude.  Within a few minutes it expanded
to become several degrees in diameter.  It was still
faintly visible in my 8 inch telescope over an hour later.

What I assume was the Centaur rocket was at the "pointed"
end of the fuel dump cloud.  Initially it was about 9th
magnitude.  What I assume was the payload was about 1 degree
north of the Centaur.  Initially it was about 8th magnitude.
The fuel dump cloud was south of the Centaur, so it was
away from the payload.  Both objects were tracked in the
8 inch for over 2 hours.  The Centaur gradually faded down
to about magnitude 11.5 or 12.  The payload faded to about
magnitude 10, then brightened to magnitude 8 about 6:19UT.
It stayed bright for about 12 minutes, then faded.  Later
it brightened to magnitude 9 for a while before going back
down to about magnitude 10.  We gave up and headed home about

Perhaps Spacecom will release elements for the Centaur.
I hope I obtained some positional measurements on both
objects that will allow me to compute elements for both.

Mike McCants
Austin, TX
30.33N, 97.76W