RE: Starshine 3 observation

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Wed Oct 10 2001 - 23:35:43 EDT

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    Tristan Cools wrote:
    > I would suggest to compare it with the Ajisai(86-61A) which
    > is of similar design and in a much higher orbit.  This ball
    > with mirrors produces sharp flashes constantly.
    Since October 1990, Russell Eberst has reported 37 position, magnitude and
    flash period observations of 86061A / 16908.
    The observed magnitude of flashes typically was about 6th magnitude. Observed
    minima were near 9th magnitude, which would be barely visible in 11 X 80
    Standard magnitude (1000 km, 90 deg phase angle) of the flashes is about 4.
    Russell reported a flash period of 0.4 s, which is sufficiently frequent not to
    significantly degrade positional obs. Residuals seem about as accurate as his
    other observations.
    Starshine 3's flashes appear to be far too infrequent to enable accurate
    positional observations; however, its size and altitude may make its body
    visible in 11 X 80 binoculars under the most favourable conditions. The body
    appears to be fairly dark, but it does reflect some light, as shown in this
    I am not familiar with the design issues, but it seems to me that it might have
    been better to have a lighter coloured body, to enable the object to be
    observed using binoculars, as a hedge against infrequent flashes. Flashing or
    not, binoculars are required to see close pairs of reference stars to enable
    precise positional measurements, so I see no harm in making the body bright
    enough to see in binoculars. The body would be invisible to the unaided eye, so
    the full effect of the flashing would be preserved for casual observers.
    I understand that the soon to be launched Starshine 2 carries micro-thrusters
    to ensure that it will spin, and that future Starshines may have a re-spin
    Ted Molczan
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