- The Chicago Astronomer -
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Well, I took my daughter and wife outside tonight to see the 9:30pm transit of the ISS before putting my daughter to bed. Heavens-Above.com was showing this should be a pretty bright pass at -3.7. So we headed out across the street at 9:26pm to a large clearing on a hill by our neighborhood lake. The sky was clouding up quickly, and I was afraid we might not get to see it. The entire southern sky was heavily overcast. So we would not get to see the ISS approach. Directly overhead and to our north, the skies were patchy, and we should get to see the ISS once it passed the zenith and continued north.
I checked my cellphone, and it was 9:30; should be coming any second now. Just then, my daughter pointed almost directly overhead at a break in the clouds and asked if that was the space station. I quickly turned and saw what she was referring to. There was an object about the same brightness as Vega slowly transiting overhead. It was about the right time for the ISS, but this was heading in the wrong direction. The ISS was supposed to be coming from the SW to the NE. This object was crossing from the ESE to the WNW. As we continued to watch it, this object started getting brighter and then suddenly flashed really bright and then dimmed back down to its original magnitude. I assumed and proceeded to explain to wife and daughter that this must be one of the Iridium satellites. As I was explaining what a Iridium flare was and why it does that, this object suddenly got brighter and flared real bright again about 8-10 seconds following the first flare! I thought that was really odd because I thought a Iridium satellite would only flare once from your viewing position as it went overhead.
Deciding to check H-A.com later, I turned my attention back to looking for the ISS. Sure enough, a few moments later right at the edge of the clouds directly overhead, we caught the rather bright transit of the space station. Wow, this thing was bright tonight. I had never seen it that bright before! It was pretty cool, and we watched it soar on out of sight before heading back inside to put Maddie to bed.
I really wanted to find out what the first object was that we saw tonight . It was literally more than twice as bright as the ISS when it flared, and it oddly flared twice. After putting Maddie to bed, I headed to my PC to look things up on H-A.com. I started by looking at the forecasted passes of the Iridium satellites. There was one forecast at 9:18pm tonight, but that was a full12 minutes before the object we saw, and it was traveling in the wrong direction.
I then looked at the list of all items for tonight that would be brighter than Mag 3.5. There was only one other object forecast for just before the ISS, and that was the Cosmos 407 Rocket. But, again, that was traveling in exactly the opposite direction of what we saw, and it was forecast for a Mag of only 3.4, which is relatively dim, especially compared to what we saw.
So, I am at a loss for what we saw transiting the sky tonight at roughly 9:30pm coming from ESE to the WNW and flaring very brightly at least twice with around 10 seconds between each flare. Would anyone else have a clue what this could have been?
Wow that is a weird one, Robb! I'll check a couple of places and report back if I find anything. Weird.
On one of our super cloudy nights last week, I was up on our second floor deck doing some viewing out to the east where there were still a few open spots. The ISS was due for a pass and it didn't look promising low to the north, but I also thought I might catch a break. Suddenly at about the right height and speed I spotted a bright light moving west to east.
I finally got the binocs on it as it was about due north from my spot. As I focussed, it suddenly got blindingly HUGE in the binocs! I recoiled from the eyepieces and realized that I was staring at a jumbo jet banking into a 180 for its approach to ORDÃ¢Â€Â”landing lights on! Yikes! In the 15x70s it looked like an angry alien spacecraft. Silly me.
Robb, I see nothing celestial at that time that would likely do this. You talk about the cloudiness. My best guess is a very high plane with the flaring caused by holes in the overcast that the setting sun is shining through and reflecting down. I've seen some very bright, very high reflections similar to what you describe, without the flaring. Really who knows? But that's my best shot.
There's always methane breathing aliens from Venus looking for a cattle yard to raid for sustenance...
Post by Paulie pchris00 on Jul 12, 2010 14:51:58 GMT -6
I missed this thread when it started, so just for the record, I caught a lot of these passes completely by luck and looking at the sky. One night I was at a rootbeer stand, and when the waitress came over to get my tray, I looked out the driver's side window and saw ISS coming by! I jumped out of the car and told her what it was. I let her have a look at Saturn, just in case I freaked her out.
"Just a boy, just an ordinary boy, but he was looking to the sky." -Vanessa Carlton