Thursday, April 24, 2014

Satellites! Progress is Their Middle Name

It was a good evening for watching satellites as there was an iridium flare, the International Space Station and an unexpected bonus.
ISS & Iridium Flare Canon T3i, 18mm, 30 sec., ISO 3200
The streak at left is the International Space Station (ISS). The small one to the right is the iridium flare which I unfortunately caught just moments after its maximum brightness. There's also a jet contrail in the image running somewhat horizontally underneath them.
ISS & Progress Module Canon T3i, 18mm, 30 sec., ISO 3200
As the ISS climbed higher in the northern sky I noticed the unexpected bonus. It is probably a bit hard to see here, so let's look at a crop from the full frame:
Can you spot it? Look at the bright, trailed streak of the ISS and notice that there is a fainter line out ahead of it. According to NASA that is the trail of the Progress 53 cargo craft that is currently undocked from the ISS. It is easier to see in the next shot.
ISS & Progress Module Canon T3i, 18mm, 30 sec., ISO 3200
It is relatively easy to see the Progress module, but here's the crop of the full frame to make it even easier to see:
Again, the bright light is the full ISS and the faint line is the Progress module that is currently leading the ISS in orbit. According to the NASA site I linked above the Progress is doing "two days of free-flying orbital tests" and will re-dock with the ISS on Friday morning.

The Progress module is so much fainter than the ISS because it is so much smaller than the ISS. It checks in at being 7.23 meters long, whereas the ISS is about the size of a football field. 

The first time I ever saw co-orbital satellites like this was back in the day when the Space Shuttle was visiting the Russion Mir space station. It was pretty exciting back then and certainly great fun to see something similar tonight.
ISS & Progress Module Canon T3i, 18mm, 30 sec., ISO 3200
Here's my last view of the ISS as it passed behind my palo verde tree.  It was a nice evening for watching satellites and enjoying the moonless skies of International Dark Sky Week.

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