Those iridium flares!

From: Tom Wagner (
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 23:34:34 EDT

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    I sent this message, or so I thought, last week. I just now discovered that
    it didn't go through. If for some reason it did go through and you are
    receiving it for a second time, I apologize.  I'm sure many of you share my
    sense of appreciation for the topic of this message, i.e. the special nature
    of iridium flares.  :~)
    Here is the original message....
    Following is a story in which I describe two of my most recent iridium flare
    A few days ago I was to attend a meeting but I deliberately went in a few
    minutes late so I could catch a glimpse of what turned out to be a pristine
    iridium flare that's dazzling white light pierced the twilight sky like no
    other that I have ever seen before.  It saturated my vision for about three
    seconds before it winked out as fast as it appeared. I could not have
    imagined a better combination of brightness of satellite and a tonal quality
    for the sky to maximize the effect. Now I think that the -8 "twilight"
    flares may be the most beautiful of all. You can't see them gradually
    building in brightness like the ones that shine at night so when they make
    their brilliant appearance they bring on a brief almost unexpected surprise!
    Then this afternoon, a few minutes before 6:00 I was standing in my
    neighbor's driveway nervously awaiting a much anticipated -8.3 flare in a
    daylight sky, far from the sun. About a minute before the big event,
    intensely excited about what was about to happen, I overruled my introverted
    nature and hollered at a man walking by with what appeared to be three of
    his grand kids. I yelled, "Sir, Sir, would you like to see the light of a
    satellite shining down to the earth about a minute from now?" Luckily for my
    peace of mind he said, "Sure".  We gathered quickly.  As we were all looking
    up, with mouths gaping, the man said, "How odd we must look to those people
    driving by...."  I smiled then began a count down at the moment my watch
    alarm began its peep, peep, peep.  One, two, three, four, five, six, "There
    it is!", I yelled. [Man was I relieved when it showed up because there have
    been times when nothing happened, like when I wrote a bunch of friends about
    a "you have to see this iridium flare" only to find out that I made a
    mistake in converting from 24 hour time!]
    Most of us saw this daytime flare and shared in the excitement. The kids
    loved it!  I handed the gentleman a copy of the Heaven's-Above info from
    which I got the times and encouraged him to check these things out for
    himself. "The International Space Station is going right over head this
    Saturday night at 7:30!", I told him. Then he said to the kids, "See, it's a
    good thing we did go on a walk after all!"
    Who knows, thanks to the persistent encouragement from the people on this
    list and the hard work of Chris Peat, we may have recruited another human
    that will find fascinating what seemingly shouldn't be fascinating but is!
    That is, the fun of accurately predicting and seeing reflections of light
    visiting us on regular occasions from earth's orbit and beyond!  :~)
    P.S. I wonder if any one has ever coordinated a cell phone communications
    relay in which one person then another let the other know when the flare of
    one iridium satellite has reached him. For instance, I could tell from the
    info collected at two sites input into Heavens-Above that a particular flare
    moved about 20 miles in 7 seconds!  One person may say "Thar she blows!"
    then a few seconds later the other person many miles away could do the same.
    This could also work for the Space Station but at points in different
    states. Just a thought.
    Clear skies and bright reflections!
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