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Walking on the Moon

Satellite ?


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I just managed an hour out with the dob before the cloud and rain hit. I had just been looking at M38 and was just panning around looking for double stars when something shot through Auriga travelling fast. It just looked like an orange dot of light and seemed too slow to be a meteorite but too fast to be a military aircraft.

Does anyone have an idea of what I saw ? I'm thinking satellite but it was fast.

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I've seen several satellites that look a sort of orange red including the ISS. Normally as they are passing into the earths shadow, I think they are then not light directly, but by refraction from the earths atmosphere.

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Many satellites look golden or orange. Many have gold-coloured insulation on them and a satellite heading into the Earth's shadow will become progressively darker as it travels through the penumbra.

When were you observing? If it was a couple of hours before sunrise or after sunset, it is likely to have been a satellite. If you have your exact position (lat/long) and time of observation there's a good chance the sat can be identified.

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I've had a look. One possibility is an old Soviet SIGINT satellite, Cosmos 1626 (1985-009A, 15494). From your location it entered shadow on 18 January at 18:41 just after passing through Taurus and just as it was entering Auriga. Its path should have taken it right through the M36-M38 chain in Auriga.

Though Heavens-Above says it was in shadow, experience has taught me that satellites often take a fair while to be completely obscured by the Earth's shadow. If it was in penumbra then there's a very good chance it will have had a golden/orange tint.


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