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What did I see?

  1. Oct 22, 2011 #1
    I live just outside of atlantic city new jersey. I got home from work last night at 4 AM. Grabbed a beer and sat on my front step which faces south east. Yes it was my first beer. My new house is in a place where you really get a chance to see more stars than im used to ever seeing, so i actually spend quite a bit of time looking at them. Well roughly 4:25 AM facing south east, coming over my head and following a straight line I see what looks like a ferry fast moving star. It covered a distance of about 8 inches, meaning if i held a ruler out at arms length it would have traveled that distance, instead i used my hands which are about 5 inches wide, and 2 fixed stars to estimate this, in just a split second. blinked out of sight, like someone turned the lights off, blinked back, and continued below the horizon created by trees.



    Now just to make this clear I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS WAS A UFO. I'm sure it was probably a meteor or a satellite or something verry common. I would just like to know if what i saw was identifiable by name. Knowing my location and the estimated direction of travel.


    The blink makes me think it was probably a satelite that for a second was at the wrong angle to reflect light in my direction. Is there anyway to check to see if there would be some civilian satelite passing that area at that time?
     
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  3. Oct 22, 2011 #2

    Evo

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    Could be the ROSAT. If so, that's very cool. http://www.space.com/13307-doomed-falling-satellite-rosat-skywatching-tips.html
     
  4. Oct 22, 2011 #3
  5. Oct 22, 2011 #4

    Evo

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    I'm jealous!!
     
  6. Oct 22, 2011 #5
    hahaha dont be, I'm jealous that most of the freshmen college students on this forum know more math than I do.
     
  7. Oct 23, 2011 #6

    AlephZero

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    If it was "very fast moving" it was almost certainly a meteor. It may have "blinked" when it went behind a cloud. Small clouds can be hard to see from the ground unless there is a lot of light pollution, or a full moon.

    Satellites in low earth orbit take one or two minutes to cross the sky from horizon to horizon, though they may disappear into or emerge from the earth's shadow part way across. I'm not familiar enough with US geography to know what time the sun rises in Atlantic City, but LEO satellites are only visible within about 2 hours after sunset and 2 hours before sunrise at i.e. during the time when the sun is still above the horizon at the altitude of the satellite.
     
  8. Oct 23, 2011 #7

    Dotini

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    I would suggest that you make a habit of watching the night sky for a few weeks, if your schedule and the weather allows for it. This way you will become accustomed to aircraft and satellites as they make their regular rounds overhead. You will also see shooting stars, or meteors. It won't take long until an anomalous object is readily identified as something other than an aircraft, satellite or meteor.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Steve
     
  9. Oct 23, 2011 #8

    russ_watters

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    Early morning on the 22nd? I use a program called Starry Night and the website Heavens-Above.com. I see perhaps a dozen satellites within a half our of your time that are medium-bright (as bright as the brightest 10 stars in the sky), but nothing crazy bright.

    However, due north at 5:56, and coming straight down there was an iridium flare of mag -8 (crazy bright), depending on your precise location (plus or minus a few miles makes a big difference in brightness for any bright satellite).
    http://www.heavens-above.com/iridium.asp?Dur=2&Date=40838.0722373611&lat=39.364&lng=-74.423&loc=Atlantic+City&alt=2&tz=EST [Broken]
     
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  10. Oct 23, 2011 #9

    DaveC426913

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  11. Oct 24, 2011 #10
    Coincidentally I was thinking about some experiences I've had with moving stars a few minutes before stumbling upon this thread. I was out in the country in the middle of nowhere in Canada with a couple of friends and we were lying in a field staring up at the sky. The sky was really cloudly, there were only 4 stars visible in the sky. After about an hour the 4 stars flew off in the same direction at the same time. They obviously weren't stars. What the hell were they? Satellites don't hover stationary in the sky in groups of 4 for an hour then casually fly away. They didn't move away very fast, nothing about it looked unnatural or anything but what were those things that we mistook for stars. Strangely enough we saw plenty of moving stars out in the country on that road trip in Canada. A star moving in the same direction wouldn't stand out to me but I kept spotting stars that were moving in irregular patterns. Maybe helicopters.

    As for things moving rapidly and disappearing in the blink of an eye, I saw one of those. Think it was a meteorite burning up upon entering the earths atmosphere. It looked like a big fire ball in the sky, it just appeared outta nowhere and shot across the sky leaving a big flaming trail for a second then disappeared.
     
  12. Oct 24, 2011 #11

    collinsmark

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    I agree with Dave and AlephZero. Probably a meteor.

    The main reason why I doubt what you saw was a satellite is that you mentioned it started out in the southeast, and moved in a direction towards overhead. No visible satellite that I know of has a westerly component in its velocity. Satellites invariably have an easterly component to them, moving generally west to east (this includes northwest to southeast and southwest to northeast) but they won't move from east to west (nor will they move from northeast to southwest or southeast to northwest). Although a few satellites might move from north to south or south to north (Iridium satellites are examples), but never east something to west something.

    That said, it's worthy to note that it's possible to see several satellites in the evenings and mornings (clouds permitting) if you live in an area without much light pollution. And even if you live in a horribly light polluted area, you can still see the International Space Station as it passes over your location within an hour or so before sunrise or within an hour or so after sunset. (This is assuming you don't happen to live in extreme latitudes.) As Russ points out, consult the heavens-above.com website.

    If an orbiting satellite were to be launched such that it had a westerly component to its velocity it would take more fuel. Even before rocket launch the satellite already has a easterly component to it when it's just sitting on the ground. This is due to the rotation of the earth. If an orbiting satellite were to be launched such that it had a westerly component, it would first have to "slow down" and then "speed up" again before reaching orbital velocity. [Edit: not to mention the effect of atmospheric drag when the low-earth-orbit satellite is in orbit. It would take more fuel merely to maintain orbit.] This would just waste fuel for no good reason.

    So yeah, what you probably saw was a meteor (aka. shooting star).
    I've experienced similar phenomenon many times before catching myself and realizing what was really going on: The stars weren't moving; the clouds were moving.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011
  13. Oct 25, 2011 #12

    sophiecentaur

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    Moving clouds can make you think that a building is falling down on top of you, too.
     
  14. Oct 27, 2011 #13
    In this case the whole sky was covered in clouds, there weren't even any gaps. Thats why we could only see those 4 lights in the sky. With that in mind, these lights musta been below the clouds. They looked very normal as they moved off, just like a commercial plane passing by would look. It was only because we had been staring at them while they were stationary for an hour that we knew they weren't planes, ordinarily I woulda just thought they were planes (or stars when stationary). I was thinking maybe they were military helicopters but this was on a deserted beach in Prince Edward Island in Canada, what the hell would military helicopters be doing hovering over there for an hour straight? I don't know why the sky was so cloudy, it didn't rain at all from what I can remember. Just a few hours away in New Brunswick I remember the sky always being crystal clear and full of stars. In the midst of those thousands of stars I regularly spotted moving stars that didn't move in any ordinary pattern characteristic of meteorites, satellites, planes or anything else I know of besides maybe helicopters. I've never seen anything out of the ordinary in the city but whenever I go out to the country (which is rarely) I always seem to see moving stars.
     
  15. Oct 28, 2011 #14

    Chronos

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    Eight inches at arms length for an object 50 or more miles distant strongly suggest a meteor. Satellites are only traveling about 17,000 mph when they enter the atmosphere. Meteors typically travel nearly 3x that speed. Meteors also flicker, and sometimes explode, as they burn in the atmosphere.
     
  16. Oct 28, 2011 #15

    DaveC426913

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    And ... the Leonids were in full swing exactly during the observing time...
     
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