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Thread: Weird 'meteor' last night

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    Default Weird 'meteor' last night



    Hi, first post here so please be gentle! As the weather has been so clear and hot recently here in SW France, I have taken to spending an hour or two after dark, lying on a sunbed, gazing at the stars, getting in some practice for the peak Perseids next week! Also, taking night sky photos without having to worry about dew forming on the lens has been an absolute bonus! I am a sporadic night sky photographer so have spent a bit of time looking upwards but I saw something last night that was completely new to me!

    After seeing several really bright meteors over the course of about 20 minutes, I saw what I initially thought was another, quite faint meteor, originating almost directly above me, in the Milky Way. However, this didn't fade away immediately like the less bright ones tend to do, but shot across almost the entire western half of the sky before disappearing behind some trees on the western horizon. It also didn't seem to go at a consistent speed, but had 3 or 4 pulses of acceleration within the second or two it took to disappear, almost like it was skipping across the sky like a stone skimmed across water!

    I would be very interested to know what this phenomenon is and whether it is something unusual (or if it is common and I've just not noticed it before), so any answers would be much appreciated.
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Hi there fuzz , welcome to the forum. Its sounds interesting. Im waiting to see the answers to this one too.
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    My guess is a tumbling satellite.
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    My guess is a tumbling satellite.
    I concur. It just 'seems' to change speed due to its changing brightness.
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    My guess is a tumbling satellite.
    It would be an atypical satellite that was travelling east to west and it would have to be in a very low orbit to have gone from zenith to near the horizon in a matter of seconds.

    To the OP:
    Did it stay faint across the full length of its path, or did the acceleration correspond with it brightening or dimming?
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Acceleration is not really possible unless it was self powered!
    Any contact with the atmosphere will only result in deceleration, and agreed tumbling or changes in brightness can confuse the eye/brain.

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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Thanks for the thoughts so far!

    It was travelling at a speed almost akin to a meteor (rather than a normal satellite) and if I was pushed, I would say that it did possibly glow slightly brighter with each pulse but it was a minimal change. How low would a tumbling satellite need to be to appear to be travelling at an equivalent speed to a meteor....is it possible?

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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Any satellite travelling low at meteor speed would effectively be a meteor and burning up in the atmosphere.
    Meteors typically burn at altitudes of 100 Km as do re-entering satellites.
    Many satellites have been seen re-entering and even then they move much more slowly than meteors. I have seen a few myself.
    I am sure you saw a meteor and the pulsing may have been due to uneven "burning" or even a disintegration.
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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    I was just taking a wild guess.
    If you have Stellarium on your computer, you can check for the date and time you observed this.
    It should show you if there was a regular satellite there or not.
    Jim



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    Default Re: Weird 'meteor' last night

    Quote Originally Posted by fuzzyfelt30 View Post
    Hi, first post here so please be gentle! As the weather has been so clear and hot recently here in SW France, I have taken to spending an hour or two after dark, lying on a sunbed, gazing at the stars, getting in some practice for the peak Perseids next week! Also, taking night sky photos without having to worry about dew forming on the lens has been an absolute bonus! I am a sporadic night sky photographer so have spent a bit of time looking upwards but I saw something last night that was completely new to me!

    After seeing several really bright meteors over the course of about 20 minutes, I saw what I initially thought was another, quite faint meteor, originating almost directly above me, in the Milky Way. However, this didn't fade away immediately like the less bright ones tend to do, but shot across almost the entire western half of the sky before disappearing behind some trees on the western horizon. It also didn't seem to go at a consistent speed, but had 3 or 4 pulses of acceleration within the second or two it took to disappear, almost like it was skipping across the sky like a stone skimmed across water!

    I would be very interested to know what this phenomenon is and whether it is something unusual (or if it is common and I've just not noticed it before), so any answers would be much appreciated.
    Anytime I see something unusual moving across the sky that is too high up to be aircraft and too slow to be a meteor I always note the time, the approx Alt that I spotted it at, and the general direction it was moving in. Later while writing in my journal about the viewing session I'll do the following:

    1. Check the ISS app to make sure that wasn't what I saw. If ISS wasn't passing over, go to step 2.
    2. Log into https://www.heavens-above.com, click on "Daily predictions for brighter satellites" then check the table to see what satellites/rocket bodies/defunct junk matches that time frame and direction. If I don't find anything that matches go to step 3.
    3. Run Stellarium. Make sure you've got satellites enabled. Adjust my view to where I can see the general direction the object was moving, then set the time back minus five minutes before I spotted the object. Any satellites that pass into view I'll click on then check the info details, particularly magnitude. Usually there will be several but since I'm within city limits most of the time I only see the brightest objects.


    NOTE: If you're using a computer to check Heavens-Above.com it's worth having a login account to make sure your satellite search results are correct to your Lat/Long.

    Every time I follow those three steps I always figure out what I saw. Usually #2 identifies the mystery object and #3 confirms it.
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