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Two planets, a mystery flash and the ISS


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I had a pleasant evening out in the garden today with two trusty fracs, the Genesis and Vixen Fluorite. We had a Zoom callat 8.15pm for my Astro group for a couple of hours, nice to catch up. I had managed to pick up both Venus and Mercury soon after eight, first in the binoculars and then the scope, but had also managed to place the scopes in the wrong place to miss the tree! I had to carry the two scopes mounted on the AZ100 and Planet tripod down the garden a little way, quite heavy!

Anyway, Venus looked fabulous, as it has been recently, now a very fine crescent. Mercury looked quite stellar sharing the field of view in the Genesis at low power, but at high power in the Vixen it showed its phase, currently at around 72%, along with quite a lot of atmospheric CA. The comparison with Venus showed just how small it is!

After that I trawled my usual doubles, comparing the views between the two scopes, one effectively a fast, flat field achro and the other a fluorite apo. CA aside, the Genesis showed itself to be highly capable. The Double Double and Izar were easy pickings for example, and the Ring Nebula was basically identical between the two scopes are the same power.

Zeta Herc split for me again at x300. It still required the good seeing moments but was reliably there when things settled.

As I was targeting the scope to M13, I saw a bright, stationary flare, making a triangle with Zeta and Epsilon Herc. I’ve seen these described by others before but not witnessed one myself. It seemed just like an Iridium flare but not moving; a fade up to and back from high brightness, say mag 3 or 4.
 

Finally, just after this happened, I saw the ISS passing overhead, and managed to get it in the finder of the Vixen and then in the scope itself. Initially I was at x50, but the Zoom allowed me to push that up to x101. Some focusing whilst pushing the scope manually to track it got me a lovely sharp image with clear detail visible, best I’ve ever seen it. I managed to then drive the Slo Mo controls well enough to keep it in the field. Really good one to see. 

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Nice report Stu.. I'll have to try the ISS again, not done that for a while. I guess also your loving the AZ100?.

Rob

Edited by Rob
typo
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6 hours ago, miguel87 said:

Was the flash you saw quite low almost due west?

No, it was at about 43 degrees altitude. Nearest I could pinpoint it would be near 50 Herc at around 10:08. Quite eerie really. Definitely a satellite of some sort I guess, but strange it was stationary.

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Very strange. I noticed the same thing around 01:30 in Hercules, too! Like a stationary iridium flare. Magnitude was brighter than your sighting. Easily 0 with the naked eye.

I wondered if it was a meteorite "heading straight for us". Or to be a little more paranoid, the X-37B? 🕵️‍♂️

Edited by Pixies
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11 minutes ago, Pixies said:

Very strange. I noticed the same thing around 01:30 in Hercules, too! Like a stationary iridium flare.

I wondered if it was a meteorite "heading straight for us". Or to be a little more paranoid, the X-37B? 🕵️‍♂️

Yes, weird, and quite a coincidence that it was in Hercules too. Your description sounds similar. It didn’t look like a head on meteor to me, although I’ve never knowing seen one before so who knows! It just felt more artificial than natural to me.

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Actually I suspect a flare from a slow moving satellite is the most likely. I thought it might be a geostationary but Hercules is not on the path for this, and I can’t see anything in the right place and time but I’m sure it will have been something along those lines.

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55 minutes ago, Rob said:

Nice report Stu.. I'll have to try the ISS again, not done that for a while. I guess also your loving the AZ100?.

Rob

ISS was quite amazing actually, must try it again but be better prepared. The Leica Zoom worked very well as it has a decent (80 degree) afov at high power and low power helps find it in the first place. That’s the highest mag I’ve viewed it at. Must try a smartphone picture next time!

Yes, the AZ100 is very nice, a great combination of stability, dual mount, ski mos and encoders.

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Nice report Stu, I forgot to look out for Mercury and Venus early on as I had other stuff on, so hoping to catch it tonight.

I've seen a number of these stationary / slow moving flares recently though have not really paid attention to where they have been.

Next time I see one I'll pay more attention to times and locations.  As I hadn't seen these prior to this year I just assumed it was associated with the Starlink nuisance but hadn't followed it up.

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2 minutes ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

I saw a satellite flare up very bright, but didn't note the time.

Lovely to see Mercury...
IMG_6405.JPG.b469c5968e6a0fc24f9c05658a2bae54.JPG
 

Lovely picture! Thanks.

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Sorry to jump in, have been searching for this light at 01:28

Friend of mine has captured it !!

So trying to find out what it was............Looks incredibly bright !

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1 hour ago, Viv said:

Sorry to jump in, have been searching for this light at 01:28

Friend of mine has captured it !!

So trying to find out what it was............Looks incredibly bright !

No problem! Was it in Hercules? Would be interesting to see the video if you can post it up?

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2 hours ago, Stu said:

No problem! Was it in Hercules? Would be interesting to see the video if you can post it up?

Heres the image from Stu (he agreed for me to post on his behalf)

DSC_5494.thumb.jpg.1b284eedbcc59d771f2ae730bb4da416.jpg

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20 minutes ago, Viv said:

Heres the image from Stu (he agreed for me to post on his behalf)

DSC_5494.thumb.jpg.1b284eedbcc59d771f2ae730bb4da416.jpg

 

17 minutes ago, Pixies said:

That's an iridium flare, isn't it?

It certainly looks like an iridium flare. The one I saw did not move at all that I could see. I didn’t think there were iridium flares around anymore so may have been something else.

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Yeah satellites will flare sometimes if they catch the light but I believe the object in discussion was not moving across the sky? I also didnt think anybody got a picture of it? 

I'm confused.

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18 hours ago, Viv said:

there was a starlink - would that mean, that they will occasionally flare ??

I feel better I'm not the only one to experience spookies.

Stu that looks like an Iridium flare.

After tracking a smashing ISS pass at 2340 on Weds 20/5 through the 6" Newtonian at 50x, just about making out the solar panels, I continued to star hop around.

At approx 0030 I moved back from the eyepiece and happened to look west. I was quite taken aback by two very bright dots not far off the brightness of the ISS, spaced around 1° apart, maybe 45-50° elevation, moving side by side slowly east to west then *poof* disappearing. I only saw them for about a minute and because the scope was quite close to the back fence, by the time I moved it back a bit, they vanished.

Probably Starlinks and I've seen a few satellites, including a confirmed with Sky Safari Iridium flare, but nonetheless I was still a bit startled!

 

Edited by ScouseSpaceCadet
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