|Occurred : 7/5/2004 21:43 (Entered as : 07/05/2004 21:43)
Reported: 7/30/2004 5:19:14 PM 17:19
Location: Flagstaff, AZ
Duration:Approx 1 min.
|Observed what appeared to be a bright, slow satellite do a 180 degree turn.
I was "sky watching" in my front yard in west Flagstaff around 2115 hours, Monday, July 5th, 2004. I spotted five satellites in less than five minutes. All exhibited the "basic" characteristics of satellites regarding speed, distance, and size.
Soon after spotting the last one of these, I noticed another coming from the south and moving towards the area of the night sky near the "handle" of the Big Dipper constellation. I immediately tried sighting it through my binoculars (10x50) using the normal technique of aiming in "front" of the object (ahead of it along its apparent trajectory), assuming it had a straight line trajectory as satellites do. I noticed also that it seemed slightly brighter than the other satellites I'd seen that evening (about twice as bright) and that it was moving about 1/3 to 1/2 less than the speed of the previously spotted satellites.
I couldn't see it through my binoculars, and lowered them. I could see it easily with the naked eye however, yet each time I lifted the binoculars to the area where it should have been travelling, I couldn't find it. I kept lowering the binoculars, recapturing it with my unaided eyesight, then lifting the binoculars again, only to lose sight of the object. After four or five attempts, I gave up trying to spot it with the binoculars and just "eyeballed" it.
Then I discovered why the object was hard to track. As it was travelling toward the north, it was also turning slightly to the right (east). When the object reached the point in the sky where its apparent position was between the two outermost stars which make up the "handle" of the Big Dipper, it began a slow but tighter turn toward the east. It completed this turn after a course change of about 180 degrees, and then continued heading back toward the south. The object completed this 180 degree turn when it reached the point in the sky where its apparent position placed it in between the four stars which make up the "scoop" or dipper part of the Big Dipper. Thus, the apparent diameter of this 180 curve ascribed by this object was the apparent distance from in between the first and second stars of the Big Dipper's handle to the middle of the Big Dipper's scoop.
There was no sound associated with this object.
I've never seen a satellite do that before... or, was it a satellite?