Edmund Weiss (1837-1917) and many astronomers since have called asteroids “vermin of the sky”, but since October 4, 1957 another “species” of sky vermin made their debut: artificial satellites. In the process of video recording stars for possible asteroid occultations, I frequently see satellites passing through my ~¼° field of view.
I’ve put together a video montage and some individual videos of satellites I’ve recorded between March 10, 2018 and November 24, 2018. All of the events are shown below, with the boldface events being presented chronologically in the first video. Both the NORAD and International designations are given for each satellite. The range is the distance between observer and satellite at the time of observation.
10-21-2018 (2 satellites)
N Sct 2018
SL-8 RB (Kosmos 726)
unknown space debris
Ariane 5 RB (Payload A)
SL-8 RB (Kosmos 726)
Ariane 5 RB (VA209)
YURI 2A (BS-2A)
SL-8 RB (Kosmos 80)
& NIMIQ 6
Range & Direction
2,199.9 km SE
34,141.7 km NE
1,483.2 km SE
18,153.7 km NE
39,042.5 km NE
1,870.9 km NE
3,137.8 km NE
37,737.7 km E
37,736.3 km E
2,028.6 km NW
You’ll notice that sometimes the satellite crosses the field as a moving “dash”. That’s because sometimes I used longer exposure times to record a fainter target star. A wind gust hit the telescope during the second event (3-25-2018). The field is oriented North up and East to the left. In this first video, you’ll notice that Sentinel 1B (the last event) has a unusual retrograde orbit (sun-synchronous) and is moving towards the NW.
In general, the slower the satellite is moving across the field, the higher is its orbit around the Earth. One must also consider how much of the satellite’s orbital motion is along your line of sight to the satellite.
In the following video clip, you’ll see an unidentified piece of space debris, a very faint “dash” (due to integration) moving NE across the field from lower right to upper left, recorded on May 5, 2018 UT.
Next, we see a Ariane rocket body used to hoist SMART-1 towards the Moon and the Insat 3E and eBird 1 towards their geostationary orbits. This recording was made on July 6, 2018 UT. The rocket body is traveling NE (mostly east). The light curve below the video suggests the possibility of some tumbling motion, but the satellite is faint and the photometry noisy.
And here is a rapidly tumbling (but low amplitude) Ariane rocket body, observed on July 31, 2018 UT and traveling NE.
Here is a no-longer-operational Japanese communications satellite named Yuri 2A, launched in 1984 and captured here on August 3, 2018 UT. It is traveling NE (mostly east) and shows a beautiful long-period large-amplitude light curve.
Finally, we see not one but two geostationary communication satellites, Galaxy 17 (first and fainter) and NIMIQ 6 moving east across the field (as my telescope tracks westward to follow the Earth’s rotation), captured here on October 21, 2018 UT. Galaxy 17 exhibits no discernible rotation, but NIMIQ 6 shows a low-amplitude long-period change in brightness.
Next we turn to three telescopic meteors I recorded on June 4, July 7, and September 11, 2018 UT.
Constellation & Direction
Here these meteors are presented in a video montage.
I even captured an airplane crossing the field on August 22, 2018 UT:
Hughes, D. W. & Marsden, B. G. 2007, J. Astron. Hist. Heritage, 10, 21