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What did I see?

  1. Jul 27, 2004 #1
    I was outside just now, stargazing with my 10x40 binoculars, as it is an exceptionally clear and beautiful night here today. I was looking east, at Andromeda, when I spotted a moving object. It's apparent size and magnitude was about that of the stars behind. I follow it in my binoculars while it travelled towards the horizon, and in a northernly direction for maybe 30 seconds. At this point, it made a 180 degree turn, now heading up from the horizon and in a southernly direction. After another 20 seconds or so, it again made a sharp turn, now heading straight north parallell to the horizon. Now it started fading rapidly, and after a short while, maybe like 10 seconds, it was too faint for me to keep tracking it.
    Am I seeing a UFO :confused:
    Or does anyone have a more down-to-earth solution?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2004 #2


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    Hard to account for such a strange path.

    Usually, the 'stars' you see moving too rapidly to be stars are satellites. Just after sunset, the sun can reflect off of them, making them visible to you.

    You don't give your location very precisely or the exact time you saw them. However, if the location were Oslo (biggest city I know of in Norway, therefore the best chance of being right), two reasonably bright satellites could have been seen tonight.

    An old Russian rocket body should have risen in the southwest at 10:52, hit its maximum elevation of 70 degrees in ESE direction at 10:58, and set in the NE at at 11:03 (man you guys have late sunsets up there).

    An American Lacrosse satellite should have risen in the SW at 10:58, hit its max elevation of 75 degrees in the SE at 11:03 and set to the NE at 11:08.

    Typically, satellites are not visible for the entire time they are above the horizon - it depends on the angle between the Sun-satellite-and you, plus the satellite's orientation sometimes. The satellite would almost certainly be visible at its max elevation, though.

    If you're out of the city, and have binoculars there's quite a few others you could have seen, some of which would cross each other while still visible.

    Check http://www.heavens-above.com/

    They post schedules for most visible satellites.
  4. Jul 27, 2004 #3
    I'm in a town called T√łnsberg. It's a bit south of Oslo, but not too far so the times shuld not be too far off. The time of the sighting was not too long before I made my post, a little before 2 am local time. The satellites you mention had the right kind of directions, but they had the wrong timing (assuming you gave times in local time, CET), also they were there for spans of ten minutes. The object I saw was visible for only one, certainly no more than one and a half minute. I am familiar with heavens-above, I use it regularly. I searched it for possible matches immideately after the sighting, but couldn't find any satisfactory results. Not that any of the other satellites I have seen carried out these kind of maneuvers in any case. As to satellites crossing each other's paths, I am certain I was following a single object all along, as I had it in view at all times.
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