Saturday night seemed to be an especially quiet night since I was able to shoot
18 frames without a single plane passing through any of them. But who would
have predicted I'd get a rocket in one frame?
Spaceweather.com reports that this was
a fuel dump from a booster used to launch a Defense Support Program
satellite (DSP-23) into a geosynchronous orbit. DSP satellites are
used to detect missile launches.
The reported schedule was:
- 10 Nov. - 17:50 PST - Delta IV Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral
- 11 Nov. - 00:01 PST - Centaur stage orbit circularization burn (3 min.),
followed by payload separation
- 11 Nov. - 00:21 PST - Fuel and oxidizer dump
So what is captured here is the fuel/oxidizer dump. Although it looks like
something traveling from east to west (left to right), in reality the fuel
dump started at the west (right) side. Over the course of the exposure, the fuel dump
location appeared to drift to the east (to the left) as it expanded.
Since it was at a geosynchronous
orbital height (22,000 miles), actually it was stationary in the sky relative
to the ground while the
earth's rotation made the stars appear to drift west (right). For this long
exposure, the telescope was following the stars westwards.
- Date/Time: 11 Nov. 2007 00:16 PST
- Location: Vanishing Point Observatory
- Camera: Planet Town 6x7 Vacuum Astrocamera
- Film: Kodak Ektachrome E200 (+2 push)
- Exposure: 1 x 40 min.
- Lens: Pentax 105mm f/2.8 Medium Format Camera Lens @ f/4
- Filter: none
- Mount: Losmandy Titan 50
- Guiding: SBIG STV / Mini Borg 45ED
- Image Processing: Photoshop