Strange observations

A place to hang out and chat about astronomy

Strange observations

Postby jamesr » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:18 am

Hi,

I have been observing since the late 1980s and have seen some odd things in the sky over the years. Usually they are explainable (flightradar24 has proved handy for this in recent years) but I'm stumped with this one:

Around a year ago I was out with the telescope and at one point as I was standing beside the scope looking up I saw what I thought was a very brief shooting star, literally a quarter-second bright white flash/streak going WNW-ESE, and as I jolted my eye to centre on it there there was a dimmer flickering blip of a white light going in a different trajectory to the brief flash (roughly north-easterly), flickering erratically for a couple of seconds before slowing down and settling into a evenly spaced dim white blip of a few seconds (I never counted). At that point it looked like something that was really high up, but obviously not a satellite, as the blip was what you would expect from an aircraft only dimmer. I checked out flightradar24 but there was nothing anywhere near us. Having checked strange blips before I have sometimes found that they are private aircraft or on two or three occasions aircraft that are registered on the radar but when you check the information is not available or maybe classified. After that I even started checking online to see if there were any re-entry vehicles being tested in any way. I found some news articles but these were in America.

Anyway, it's a lovely night out tonight so I was out for a while with the binoculars and saw the usual; no shooting stars at all but a few satellites. And the moon looks great. But then I saw what I thought was a very brief shooting star - really bright but very short, quarter/half-second. I looked towards it and a couple of seconds later there was a very dim white blip. I wasn't even sure that I saw it. Then there it was again... and again... on a trajectory roughly the same as the one I saw last year. There was no 'uncontrolled flicker' this time, though. I kept my eyes on it, this time counted, and the blips were five seconds apart. I was able to follow it for roughly 30 seconds. Again, it looked like something that was really high up, way past an airliner. I checked flightradar and there was nothing in the air anywhere near. It also dawned on me that this was in the exact same patch of sky as the last one.

This is the one thing in all my time observing that has me properly stumped. I did loads of searches online to try to find out both last year and tonight but it's just all stuff about navigation lights that don't match up. Has anyone else ever seen anything similar or have any suggestions as to what it could be?

J :-)
jamesr
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:28 pm

Re: Strange observations

Postby Gfamily2 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:14 pm

jamesr wrote:Hi,

I have been observing since the late 1980s and have seen some odd things in the sky over the years. Usually they are explainable (flightradar24 has proved handy for this in recent years) but I'm stumped with this one:

Around a year ago I was out with the telescope and at one point as I was standing beside the scope looking up I saw what I thought was a very brief shooting star, literally a quarter-second bright white flash/streak going WNW-ESE, and as I jolted my eye to centre on it there there was a dimmer flickering blip of a white light going in a different trajectory to the brief flash (roughly north-easterly), flickering erratically for a couple of seconds before slowing down and settling into a evenly spaced dim white blip of a few seconds (I never counted). At that point it looked like something that was really high up, but obviously not a satellite, as the blip was what you would expect from an aircraft only dimmer. I checked out flightradar24 but there was nothing anywhere near us. Having checked strange blips before I have sometimes found that they are private aircraft or on two or three occasions aircraft that are registered on the radar but when you check the information is not available or maybe classified. After that I even started checking online to see if there were any re-entry vehicles being tested in any way. I found some news articles but these were in America.

Anyway, it's a lovely night out tonight so I was out for a while with the binoculars and saw the usual; no shooting stars at all but a few satellites. And the moon looks great. But then I saw what I thought was a very brief shooting star - really bright but very short, quarter/half-second. I looked towards it and a couple of seconds later there was a very dim white blip. I wasn't even sure that I saw it. Then there it was again... and again... on a trajectory roughly the same as the one I saw last year. There was no 'uncontrolled flicker' this time, though. I kept my eyes on it, this time counted, and the blips were five seconds apart. I was able to follow it for roughly 30 seconds. Again, it looked like something that was really high up, way past an airliner. I checked flightradar and there was nothing in the air anywhere near. It also dawned on me that this was in the exact same patch of sky as the last one.

This is the one thing in all my time observing that has me properly stumped. I did loads of searches online to try to find out both last year and tonight but it's just all stuff about navigation lights that don't match up. Has anyone else ever seen anything similar or have any suggestions as to what it could be?

J :-)


Hi James
It's unlikely that we'll be able to pin down exactly what you might have seen but some additional information might be helpful
* Whereabouts in the sky were these objects ?
* What time was this ?
* Were the earlier observations at the same time / season etc?

Typically, a bright flash is how you would see one of the 'old' Iridium satellite flares, though they are typically a 'few' seconds long, rather a fraction of a second.
Scopes: Meade 8" SCT, Skywatcher 127mm Mak, Raffle winner of SW ST80
For imaging: Pentax K5, Asda webcam, Star Adventurer (new toy)
For companionship: Mid Cheshire Astronomical Group.
(Not a moderator)
Gfamily2
 
Posts: 522
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:38 pm

Re: Strange observations

Postby jamesr » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:25 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the reply. Both observations took place just after midnight. The area of sky, judging by the angle from me and assuming a *very* high atmospheric altitude, I think would be around 55.30N 7.50W. Just off the north coast of Ireland.

It definitely wasn't an Iridium satellite. I've also seen satellites in my time that have 'flashed' on and off, obviously due to rotation and reflective surfaces, and they're always a joy to watch, as are those that get Venus-bright and then fade to nothing, and then do it again, and so on. This was not one of those; it was a split-second white flash/streak like a meteor that then became a series of distinct strobelike blips, at first flashing erratically for maybe two or three seconds and then settling into a more regular but fast blipping that slowed down gradually over the space of another couple of seconds and settled into one dim, strobe blip every five seconds. The second one was the same only from the flash into the five-second sequence. In this last case I saw the flash and for the first few seconds thought it was a shooting star. Then I saw the first blip and then next and so on. Observable for about 30 seconds or so.
jamesr
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:28 pm


Return to General

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests