Saturday, July 30, 2016

Iridium flare, 2016-Jul-29

Iridium 37, York County, VA. July 29, 2016, 10:03 p.m. EDT. Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens at f/4.0. Canon 550D, 90 sec exposure at ISO800 with Polarie Sky Tracker.
George Reynolds brought this Iridum flare to our attention over on the Back Bay Amateur Astronomers forum today so I thought I would give it a shot. The maximum brightness was only magnitude -1 at my location, but in Virginia Beach where the club is hosting an event tonight, they got to enjoy magnitude -8 and an ISS overpass within a minute of the flare!

This is the first time I went after an Iridium flare. It is poorly framed and nothing spectacular, yet I really enjoyed the anticipation of the event. I consulted Heavens Above for where to point my camera and walked down the street to find a view between the trees while avoiding porch lights. Since I had only 5 minutes to prepare, I quickly polar aligned my Polarie Star Tracker (poorly as it turns out) and estimated the exposure time. While I was working the math in my head on when to open the shutter, I saw the Iridium satellite already approaching my field of view, so I just tripped the shutter and let the cards fall where they may.

After the satellite passed, I tried gathering five more frames with the intention of making a mosaic showing the flare in relation to Cygnus. I discovered later that I did not get enough coverage for the mosaic, so I just have this one image. It's a shame too, because the parts I did capture hinted that the mosaic would have been really cool. Ah, well. Better luck next time. I'm kind of hooked now!