Supernova sighting? Nope, iridium flare.

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uknb82

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I'm not sure if anyone will read this but I'm trying to find an explanation for what I've just seen in the night sky. In real-time, without the aid of telescope, I would bet that I just witnessed a supernova. This happened at approximately 3:15am ET above the Northern horizon. I will have to study a constellation map to pinpoint where this took place. All I'm trying to find out is if my eyes did not deceive me as this surely would have been noticed years ago by our telescopes. This all seemed to have taken place in about 5 seconds.
 
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BoJangles2

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Re: Supernova Sighting

It was probably an iridium flare, MW knows all about these things, if you give your exact lat,long and time he might be able to verify it, the other possibility (but less likely) it was a point meteorite. My money is with the former (iridium flare).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_flare
 
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uknb82

Guest
Re: Supernova Sighting

An iridium flare would be much more sensible but this image of dullness becoming suddenly brighter and then slowing fading out, all within approx. 5 seconds, was, from my perception, at the exact spot in the sky. Wouldn't an iridium flare have moved across the sky? It also seems likely that a point meteorite would have moved at least a bit as well. [LEX] 38.05 85.00 38 2 59 85 0 0 Lexington, KY, USA.
 
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MeteorWayne

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Re: Supernova Sighting

Yes, it sounds like an Iridium. Supernova last days and weeks, so that's out.

Especially for a short Iridium flare, unless there is a bright star close by, it's hard to notice the motion. The Iridiums are in a much higher orbit than say, the ISS, so move much more slowly across the sky. It takes a bit of practice to learn to notice the motion, and especially for one that pops up unexpectedly. Have you seen Iridiums before?

Two questions, then I'll follow up. Was it low near the horizon, or high overhead near the zenith?

And it was this morning around 3:15 AM...and how exact is the time?

Wayne
 
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uknb82

Guest
Re: Supernova Sighting

Well, I'm glad I checked because I didn't want to go around claiming I've seen something marvelous if it's not true. If an iridium flare can appear to be completely stationary for approx. 5 seconds to the untrained eye, that is most likely what I've witnessed. I have never witnessed that before so I must not have seen a similar flare. If a supernova lasts days at a minimum then I definitely didn't witness one, unless it had been there for days becoming brightest just before fading away. This appeared neither at the horizon or at the zenith, but in between at approx. a 60 degree angle. The time I mentioned before was very close to accurate: between 3:13 - 3:15am ET.
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Re: Supernova Sighting

OK, well your description fits exactly an iridium flare. To see more in the future, use this link. It is based on your location that you gave:

http://heavens-above.com/?Lat=38.05&Lng ... ton&TZ=EST


Bookmark this, and your location will be the default.

Click on the "Iridium Flares for the next 7 days" link to see upcoming ones; clicking on "Prev" will bring up the preceeding week.

Since none of the listed Iridium flares match you sighting, it was likely one of the out of control or spare Iridium satellites. This is also indicated by the very short duration...usually they last more like 10 or 15 seconds, so if it only lasted 5, it was probably not one in use, which means it does not show up on the flare prediction page. Once you've seen a few, you can easily recognize one of the unpredicted ones...they are quite distinctive.

Good luck, and feel free to post more questions here or PM me if you wish.

And welcome to Space.com (if I didn't say that already!)

Meteor Wayne
 
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uknb82

Guest
Thanks for the info. I've bookmarked that link for future reference.
 
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