possible supernova sighting

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oldfarmer

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I own a small farm in rural north Georgia and enjoy walks late in the evenings: star gazing, listening to frogs around the pond, smelling the honeysuckle and sweet plum blossoms; all the things that make living on the farm such a wonderful experience. Last night - 5/28/09 at about 10:30 - a brilliant pinpoint of light, high in the southeastern sky, gathered then faded out completely in a matter of seconds. This light was unquestionably the brightest in the sky! From the pinpoint of this brilliant light were rays as sharp as needles eminating in all directions. I stood transfixed watching this event and could not discern whether this object had any motion, although initially I thought it might. In a few moments after realizing that perhaps I just witness a celestial event that few people have ever experienced, I ran into the house and told my wife of my experience. We both began to comb the internet for breaking news, but only found references to earlier supernova detection. As of this morning, much to my disappointment, there are no references to the event I witnessed. As a lay cosmologist, I have a fairly good knowledge of the cosmos and stand by the belief that what I saw had to be a deep space event; possibly a supernova.
 
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MeteorWayne

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I can tell you what you most likely saw, and it was not a supernova. Supernovae last days or weeks, not a few seconds.

What you saw was an Iridium Flare. It is the reflection of the sun from an antenna of a communications satellite. (We get this question a lot here :) )

If you can be more specific as to your location, I can help you look up exactly which satellite it was, and help you set up the Heavens Above website so you can get predictions of such events in advance. They are mighty spectacular, aren't they!!

Meteor Wayne

If you want, you can set up the site yourself.

Go here:
http://heavens-above.com/

Select your location from the database or on the map.

For Iridium flares, the precise location is very important; even a difference of a few miles make s HUGE difference in how bright the flare is, so be as accurate as possible.

Once you have the location locked in THEN save the page in your bookmarked pages. That way when you click on it in the future, your location will already be loaded.

Look at Iridium Flares for the next 7 days (that is for future flares) then hit "Prev" this will give you flares for the previous week, which should include the one yu saw.

If you need help setting the page up, either post here, or feel free to PM me.

Welcome to Space.com!!
 
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crazyeddie

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oldfarmer":3kfb36rj said:
As a lay cosmologist, I have a fairly good knowledge of the cosmos and stand by the belief that what I saw had to be a deep space event; possibly a supernova.
There's no way it could have been a supernova. Supernova are not transitory phenomena; they grow enormously bright very quickly, then gradually fade over a period of weeks or months. They could never go unnoticed for more than a few minutes or hours before professional or amateur astronomers around the world would discover them, and a bright one visible to the naked eye would make headlines. It's far more likely you saw an Iridium satellite flare.

By the way, welcome to Space.Com!
 
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dragon04

Guest
At least you're looking up and brother, that's a LOT more than I can say for a lot of people I know!
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Hi oldfarmer,

I PM'd you a link with your aapproximate location, refine it as I suggested then bookmark the page.

If you click on Iridium Flares for the next 7 days you should see something like this:

31 May 23:03:22 -1 34° 64° (ENE) 51.6 km (W) -8 Iridium 22
01 Jun 04:24:48 -2 43° 269° (W ) 31.2 km (W) -8 Iridium 35
01 Jun 06:05:59 -9 71° 227° (SW ) 0.4 km (W) -9 Iridium 91
01 Jun 22:57:22 -4 35° 66° (ENE) 18.5 km (W) -8 Iridium 25
02 Jun 04:18:41 -4 44° 270° (W ) 17.7 km (E) -8 Iridium 6
02 Jun 22:51:20 -2 35° 67° (ENE) 30.4 km (E) -8 Iridium 47
03 Jun 04:12:35 -1 43° 272° (W ) 44.5 km (E) -8 Iridium 4
03 Jun 05:58:17 -1 68° 237° (WSW) 25.4 km (W) -9 Iridium 83
04 Jun 05:52:12 -2 70° 235° (SW ) 20.4 km (E) -9 Iridium 56
04 Jun 21:03:45 -6 71° 91° (E ) 6.1 km (W) -9 Iridium 75
05 Jun 04:09:30 -1 37° 274° (W ) 52.4 km (W) -8 Iridium 5
05 Jun 05:46:08 -0 70° 237° (WSW) 34.1 km (E) -9 Iridium 84
05 Jun 20:57:41 -1 71° 92° (E ) 22.2 km (E) -9 Iridium 63
05 Jun 22:42:26 -4 41° 69° (ENE) 14.9 km (W) -8 Iridium 46
06 Jun 04:03:23 -3 36° 276° (W ) 23.7 km (W) -8 Iridium 8
06 Jun 22:36:26 -6 42° 70° (ENE) 8.5 km (E) -8 Iridium 49
07 Jun 03:57:17 -3 37° 277° (W ) 28.1 km (E) -8 Iridium 61

If you then click on "Prev" near the top, you see the previous week:

24 May 21:31:19 -1 21° 346° (NNW) 42.2 km (E) -6 Iridium 18
24 May 21:52:04 -0 52° 82° (E ) 43.6 km (E) -8 Iridium 21
24 May 23:17:27 -0 19° 56° (NE ) 84.1 km (E) -7 Iridium 26
25 May 21:25:01 -1 22° 345° (NNW) 40.9 km (E) -6 Iridium 39
25 May 23:20:53 -2 23° 58° (ENE) 44.4 km (W) -7 Iridium 76
26 May 04:52:15 -1 50° 260° (W ) 38.4 km (W) -8 Iridium 6
26 May 21:18:50 -3 24° 344° (NNW) 15.9 km (E) -6 Iridium 15
26 May 23:14:49 -2 23° 59° (ENE) 44.3 km (E) -7 Iridium 46
27 May 04:46:09 -3 49° 262° (W ) 18.9 km (W) -8 Iridium 4
27 May 21:12:36 -2 25° 343° (NNW) 23.0 km (E) -6 Iridium 41
28 May 04:40:03 -2 50° 263° (W ) 22.7 km (E) -8 Iridium 19
28 May 06:25:35 -1 75° 201° (SSW) 21.5 km (E) -8 Iridium 56
28 May 21:06:21 -1 27° 343° (NNW) 30.3 km (E) -7 Iridium 42
28 May 21:37:00 -2 62° 84° (E ) 20.3 km (W) -8 Iridium 75
28 May 23:12:12 -1 29° 62° (ENE) 44.8 km (W) -7 Iridium 23

29 May 03:23:12 -0 12° 298° (WNW) 106.7 km (W) -6 Iridium 57
29 May 21:00:09 -1 29° 342° (NNW) 33.1 km (E) -7 Iridium 80
29 May 21:30:57 -4 61° 85° (E ) 10.7 km (E) -8 Iridium 63
29 May 23:06:10 -4 29° 63° (ENE) 22.1 km (E) -7 Iridium 45
30 May 03:17:00 -6 12° 300° (WNW) 19.1 km (W) -6 Iridium 60
30 May 21:24:54 -1 62° 86° (E ) 29.7 km (E) -8 Iridium 66
31 May 03:10:44 -1 12° 301° (WNW) 74.6 km (E) -6 Iridium 29

I highlighted the 3 on the night in question; none are an exact match. Perhaps your estimated time and/or direction was off?

Another possibily it wasone of the spare or out of control Iridiums. Once you see a few they are unmistakeable so the unpredicted ones are easy to recognize.
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Be aware that when looking for Iridiums, 2 things are critical, your location and time.

Even being off by a few miles can make a 4 or 5 magnitude difference in how bright the flare is. If you live in a large town or twonship, just the twon center location listed might not be close enough for accurate predictions. That's why I suggested you start from the town in the linl I provided you, then slect the precise location from the map, THEN bookmark the page.

The other is the time. Since the flares only last 10 or 15 seconds, if your watch is off by a minute, you can miss the whole event.

At the bottom of the H-A page is a "What time is it now?" link that will allow you to calibrate your watch within a few seconds.

For all other satellites, such as the ISS, HST Genesis 1 and 2 or the daily lists, it's not as critical since they are visible across a wide area and last several minutes

Good Luck!

Wayne
 
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