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Discussion: starlink-9 launch Wed at 9 AM PDT

in: biggins; biggins > 2020-07-05

Jul 8, 2020 5:44 AM # 
The next group of 57 starlink sats (and two rideshares) is scheduled for 8:59 AM PDT Wed Jul 8. It was pushed down the schedule to allow for a GPS launch last week. Unfortunately the new launch timing is lousy for satellite viewing for us. First opportunities are some poor early morning passes at the end of July. They'll be at altitude and hard to see by then anyways. Too bad.

Livestream of Wednesday's launch will be at the usual place.

Launch of the next group, starlink-10, is TBD late July.

In other news, there was a Rocket Lab Electron launch failure over the weekend. The launch was from NZ. Details are sketchy, but it looks like the second stage had a problem at the time of a scheduled hot-swap from one battery to another. The fuel pumps on the Electron are driven by battery powered electric motors. The payload was lost. This is the rocket type that will eventually be flying from Wallops, VA.
Jul 8, 2020 3:52 PM # 
Just scrubbed due to weather.
Jul 10, 2020 12:46 AM # 
This guy just became visible: 1, 2! Couple hours before sunrise, low to the northeast. Sounds like it should start showing up in the evening next week, though getting dimmer.
Jul 10, 2020 1:18 PM # 
What is that?
Jul 10, 2020 1:33 PM # 
Jul 10, 2020 1:37 PM # 
Great shot!!
Jul 10, 2020 3:50 PM # 
That is wonderful! A photographer in upstate New York did a panorama shot a few days ago at Brant Lake.
Jul 10, 2020 3:52 PM # 
Cool! Can we see it in Montana?
Jul 10, 2020 11:56 PM # 
Woah, awesome! Fantastic shots!! I'll have a look for it tomorrow morning. Spacex will make another attempt to launch the starlink-9 sats tomorrow (Sat July 11) at 10:54 AM EDT. Weather forecast is about the same as Wednesday's attempt.
Jul 11, 2020 12:12 AM # 
Sky & Tel has some Comet Neowise viewing info. Look below and left of the bright yellow star Capella in the NE before dawn for the next couple of mornings, then below the bowl of the big dipper in the NW in the evening starting July 15.
Jul 11, 2020 2:19 PM # 
I struck out this morning. Sky wasn't great, and my horizon wasn't low enough. I caught a serendipitous pass of the ISS just above the comet about an hour before sunrise while setting up:

Here's the Sky and Tel chart:

The ISS was 10-12 deg elevation at this point, so the comet was very low at 4:30 - maybe 5 deg. The comet should have been visible above the trees here by 5 AM, but by then I couldn't even see Capella and the sky was getting bright.

Will have to get in the car to find a lower horizon tomorrow morning, which is forecast to be clear. Did see Mars and Venus, and lots of bats!
Jul 11, 2020 2:28 PM # 
Also, today's starlink launch was scrubbed...again - this time for "technical reasons." Second technical scrub for this vehicle. I wonder what's going on.
Jul 11, 2020 4:07 PM # 
I had an alarm set this morning but decided that chances would be better tomorrow. and then I would only be sleepy for half of the weekend.
Jul 12, 2020 1:25 AM # 
At 9 PM this evening I'm beginning to regret getting up this morning myself, but the forecast still looks great for tomorrow. Low humidity too. Primary and backup alarms set.

There are ISS passes again tomorrow morning. The first is about the same as what I saw this morning, but its a little earlier - 3:45 AM. There's a second pass in late twilight 90 mins later at 5:20 AM. That one will go right by Venus and Aldebaran. All should still be visible in the bright sky at that point. Here are the sky maps for the passes for Bethesda:

ISS pass, 3:44 AM
ISS pass, 5:20 AM
Jul 12, 2020 11:40 AM # 
Auu, yeah!

This comet is worth making an effort to see. First real naked-eye comet since Hale-Bopp in 1997, and this one has a longer, more interesting tail at the moment. This morning's weather was perfect. So cool to see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, the Moon, Venus and a comet with one turn of the head. Add in the ISS to make it extry-good.

It was visible just above the horizon with binocs at 3:45 AM EDT, and I was last able to pick it out at 5:05 AM. It was easy to see naked-eye in between though, even with the last-quarter moon up. Might be able to see it later than that in the pics. Took tons of pics, but I wasn't paying attention to the dew and the lens was well fogged when I finally noticed. If you are out taking pics, remember to check it often and have a clean cloth or warm air blower to keep it clear (or move to a desert).

Saw both ISS passes. The later one at 5:20 was easy to see in the west, but harder to find as it got close to Venus in the bright eastern sky. If you kept your eye on it you could follow it, but recovering it after looking away was tough.

There were even more bats out in the field this morning. Amazing what you see when you get up early :) Working through the photos today. A couple of snaps below. Can't wait to see Ken's shots.

iss_and_comet.jpg - taken at 3:45 AM EDT (2 hrs before local sunrise). Comet near the highway sign at the bottom.
comet_low_30s.jpg - only took a couple of 30s exps, the rest were shorter to reduce trailing on the tripod. Will have to shift-and-add.
Jul 12, 2020 1:30 PM # 
I got some pictures here. The first one is edited like how I remember the sky looking, lots of light pollution especially around the horizon, and I actually hadn't yet found the comet/tail until I saw it on the camera screen. Even lower than I expected, I had just barely enough sky. I forgot about the ISS, went back to bed afterwards.
Jul 12, 2020 2:20 PM # 
Nice! I can see the split tail in yours. My full-telephoto shots (fl 105mm) were all 10s, which were trailed and the split tail isn't clear. Here's an example. Looks like yours were 1s @ 200mm. I have some 60mm ones @10s, but mostly I was shooting 15s for those and they're all more trailed than I'd like. I was aiming for a deep stack of the tail. Love Greg's close-up shot of the split though. Need to set up the telescope for tracking, but it would have been a long carry from the car today.

I can just barely see the nucleus in my last photo at 5:08 AM.
Jul 13, 2020 5:23 AM # 
Here's one of the time-lapse sequences I took, this one at full telephoto. 50 10s frames over a 15-minute period here:

And a few more processed images:

comet_rising_105mm_trail.gif - straight stack of those 50 images
comet_rising_105mm_stack.gif - basic shift-and-add of those 50 images. 8 mins total exptime [updated with rotation included]
iss_pass_over_comet.jpg - middle part of the ISS pass sequence, through the constellation Auriga
Jul 13, 2020 11:29 PM # 
Here's another time-lapse. This was earlier, with the comet at lower elevation and a wider FOV.

comet_rising_60mm.gif - 63 frame animation, 15s/frame
comet_rising_60mm_trail.gif - straight stack of those 63 images
comet_rising_60mm_stack.gif - basic shift-and-add of those 63 images. 15 mins total exptime.

Added a rotation to the translation for a basic tangent-plane projection for the shift-and-add. Comparison of shift-only vs shift and rot. Still needs a little work on the sky, then will do full color. Could avoid all this effort piggybacked on a telescope with a tracking mount or a a more portable barn door tracker.
Jul 14, 2020 12:40 AM # 
Built a barn door tracker and used it successfully with a 55 mm lens. Was using real film so the exposures were quit long -- 30 minutes. Inevitably some shaking occurred. Replaced it with the camera mounted on top of a telescope with a drive. Used the scope to lock on a star for corrections.
Jul 16, 2020 2:50 PM # 
Comet is visible in the evenings now. Saw it morning and evening yesterday, which feels odd. Didn't actually "see" it last night through the clouds and bright sky, but it showed up in photos. Here's an annotated one to help with location relative to the big dipper. The comet will appear higher and slightly farther W (left) each successive evening (Sky and Tel finding chart):

(stack of 3 20s exps)

Here's another 10s exp with a couple of my neighbors in the view so you can see how low it is in the sky. The small streak next to the comet is a firefly.

Also there are favorable ISS passes in the evening this week. Saw it last night while out looking at the comet. Here is the ISS pass list for D.C. Update your location in the upper right and follow the ISS link on the main page for other locations. There's a nice pass tonight that will go through the cup of the big dipper at 10:05 PM EDT.
Jul 17, 2020 5:50 AM # 
Yeah I got out last night too. Didn't know where it was going to show up, and I ended up right in line with the ag inspection station on the highway, with its giant overhead lights. Got some good pics though, plus some bonus milky way on the walk back.
Jul 17, 2020 12:39 PM # 
Wow, those are really, really fantastic. Nice Jupiter shots too. You should try Saturn with that 300mm lens. You probably saw it next to Jupiter, just left of your milky way FOV. Very nice glass, that :) I bet the quality would hold up with a good tele-extender.

Is the time-stamp in the Exif extension accurate? I was looking at a couple of the satellite trails in this one and this one. The short bright streak in the first could be a meteor or a sat flare, and there's a fainter trail in the background. Curious if any of these are Starlinks.
Jul 17, 2020 12:50 PM # 
Is the sun still up in that first shot? Could you see the comet by-eye at that point?
Jul 18, 2020 2:30 AM # 
Good view tonight. Picked it up right away with my 20x spotting scope. Then visible with naked eye as it got darker. No photos, iphone just didn't want to capture it.
Jul 18, 2020 5:26 AM # 
I saw Saturn and took some pics, but they were just ovals. It was low across that same talus slope as the Milky Way shots, and there was a lot of heat shimmer coming off those rocks even at midnight. I have some somewhere of it with the 300 and a 2x, you can definitely see rings, but it's not too great.

I'd have to check the camera clock for the time stamps, I leave the gps off for battery, so the clock drifts a lot and I forget when I last synced it. I edited out a lot of satellites from those pics, but I left that first one in since it looked cool. All the rest were the normal thin steady lines.

The orange flare is from the overhead lights at the agriculture inspection station on the highway, the sun had been down for a while. Tonight we could see it naked eye (barely) a little after 9, and by 10 I could see it through the screen in our bedroom window. Tried to get an iphone pic just to rub it in, but it'll need some lightrooming if it got anything at all...
Jul 18, 2020 6:05 PM # 
Phone cameras will be tough because of the tiny aperture. If you can select longer exposures and you can prop the phone up on something you might be able to see it. Take several exposures and add them together.

Clear here at sunset, but immediately turned crappy. Had the telescope set up on the back deck. Never saw the comet through the clouds by-eye, binocs or the spotting scope, but took a 105mm piggyback sequence with the scope tracking. Just a rough polar alignment and no guiding, 10s exps to start, then stepped up to 30s. Menacing trees rising up to cover the comet, but complete overcast at the end.

Tonight looks promising, but the back deck won't work. Found a spot in the upper yard that will work with some minor tree trimming. Its either that or drive to the church, but lots of streetlights there.

My Canon clock drifts badly too. No GPS, so I set it manually each time if I remember. Your setup is pretty ideal for catching satellites. Those fast, large aperture wide-field lenses are perfect. Even your 300mm (no tele) would work for the tight starlink groups, but you'd have to point carefully. My telescope works great for catching them, but the FOV is only 1/2 degree. Your 35mm fixed should work well. You could almost shoot video, or a series of very short exps - 1/4s maybe. I've taken a few sets that short, but my camera can only go 4 frames before stopping to dump the buffer.

The Crew Dragon is scheduled for undocking and re-entry on Aug 2. If the timing works out you might be able to get some formation flying shots with the ISS. Saw a great overhead ISS pass last night while setting up for the comet. Low passes tonight, but a decent one tomorrow. Good pass for VT tonight right above the comet at 10:05 PM EDT.
Jul 18, 2020 6:17 PM # 
Actually the 10 PM local pass for us in Baltimore and Truckee will be very close to the comet. I'll take a look at the comet ephemeris to see just how close.
Jul 18, 2020 7:32 PM # 
Ok, here are a couple of images showing the location of the comet and ISS at 10:12 PM PDT tonight. One on a sky chart, the other on one of Greg's photos. ISS should pass right through the tail. Will be similar at east coast locations, a few mins after 10 PM EDT (two orbits prior).

sky chart jpg
annotated photo jpg
annotated photo with big dipper cup and bear's head jpg
Jul 21, 2020 7:21 AM # 
Animation showing the proper motion of the comet relative to the stars over about an hour from my back yard on Saturday evening:

One frame has the ISS track in it. Weather has been iffy since then, but I got a decent piggyback sequence through the clouds tonight, and some shots through the telescope. Can't keep up with the processing though. Each night is longer with the comet starting at a higher elevation.
Jul 21, 2020 9:42 PM # 
My boss managed a pic of the comet using his Galaxy S10, handheld through half a binocular.
Jul 25, 2020 6:23 PM # 
After a few days of clouds and rain, caught a glimpse of it last night. It still up there, and still hard to make out without binocs or a camera in the burbs. Here's an mp4 time-lapse of the comet setting into a thunderhead last night. Comet in upper left, cup of big dipper in upper right.

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