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Nanosail-D photo contest!

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posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 10:58 AM
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Nanosail-D is NASA's first solar sail experiment (technically the second as the first one was lost at launch with Falcon 1 though), and it is currently in low earth orbit.
en.wikipedia.org...
A contest partnership with spaceweather.com has been announced with the top prize being $500. Photographs can be simple widefield shots that show the sun glinting off the panel, producing bright "flares" or "flashes" as it goes overhead, or they can be grainy high magnification views through a telescope trying to resolve the tiny 1 arcsecond sail. Photographs will be judged not just on asthetic appearance but technical proficency as well (technical difficulty and detail of the image accounts for 40% of the score). The contest essentially runs until the sail re-enters the atmosphere sometime in April or May. The official contest website is here:
nanosail.org...
This is the kind of contest I've been dreaming of, though my first good opportunity to see it won't come until a month from now. I know I'm not the only one with a telescope or an interest in astrophotography around here, so here's the information for all my fellow amateurs.

*Edit to add: if you're going to try to track this thing with a telescope I recommend you keep tabs on the exact details of the pass. Contest rules state they can ask you for "the direction of the imaging equipment in azimuth and elevation" to prove the validity of your image.
edit on 31-1-2011 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 11:26 AM
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Looks interesting

I have a busy day doing some studio work and then off to a Social Distortion show...
But I will surely look into this further.
How many "Best UFO" pictures will come out of this?

Thanks Friend,



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 10:19 AM
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What kind of magnitudes are we looking at with the nanosail?

Is it a constant? or will it be like Iridium flares?



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 01:23 PM
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Originally posted by Chadwickus
What kind of magnitudes are we looking at with the nanosail?

Is it a constant? or will it be like Iridium flares?

Great questions. The answer to the first isn't easy to come by. On the one hand, Ted Molczan, one of the world's most experienced satellite trackers, failed to find it with the aid of a pair of very large binocs on the first night he went looking for it. He thought it had be below magnitude 7 or 8. On the other hand we have a "satellite trail" picture of it from an observer in Finland which shows a strong signal, but the photographer couldn't give an estimate of the brightness except to say it must have been "fairly bright." Based on the other stars visible in his picture I'd put a rough guess at around magnitude 4-5 at least. No one can seem to get a consistent answer and I think the real answer is this; it depends. It was supposed to tumble at first which would average out the brightness, but then its attitude was supposed to become stabilized by the orbital drag. If you're viewing "edge-on" for a pass, it will be nearly invisible by eye. If you're viewing it "face-on" it should be pretty bright, but unfortunately there's no way to know for sure what its attitude is until you observe it.

That brings me to your second question, and the answer is that it will not be constant at all, and depending on the angle of the sun you may indeed catch a very bright flare off the sail. The team estimates it could appear as much as ten times the brightness of Venus during momentary flares as its altitude decreases. The rest of the time I'm guessing that magnitude 4~5 is a good estimate, though heavens-above.com has a more optimistic estimate of around magnitude 2.

I'm intentionally low-balling my estimates though to be on the safe side; I'm going to try to practice on magnitude 4-5 satellites in the coming weeks to make sure my viewfinder camera can detect satellites that dim and to determine the exposure setting needed on the main camera (if needed I can adjust on the fly, but if I under-expose then I'd have no way of even knowing if the satellite is in the main view or not). If the viewfinder cam doesn't cut it then I'll have to reduce my main camera's magnification so that I don't need to rely on the viewfinder at all. That would prevent me from resolving the sail as more than a point-like light source though, and that's my ultimate goal. Not that a video showing a stationary dot whizzing by the stars isn't cool, but it would be cooler to actually resolve it, if only barely.
edit on 1-2-2011 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 01:26 PM
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guess the winner..

. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first ($500),

will have nibiru on it



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 01:40 PM
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Originally posted by heineken
guess the winner..

I'm guessing Thierry Legault, if he decides to try for it. He's the undisputed king of satellite solar transit images. If he gets into the game he'll slaughter the rest of the competition with an awesome image of it passing in front of the sun. A solar sail silhouetted against the image of the sun, how cool would that be? In theory I could do that too, but his solar imaging technique is second to none. His images of the sun beat mine hands-down, plus I already checked and there are no "sun transits" of that satellite visible over the next two months within a hundred kilometers of my home. Thierry's the kind of guy who doesn't care about that kind of thing though; he'll travel halfway across the world if he has to in order to get the shot of a lifetime. If he decides to get into this, everyone else can kiss that $500 bucks goodbye. That said, he'd deserve to win the prize if for no other reason than to cover the costs of his trip (to say nothing of how awesome his images are, there are several threads about his pictures here on ATS).

My strength is in direct tracking of satellites at twilight, and in that arena there are very few of us who image satellites at effective focal lengths above 3 to 4 meters, so the competition is much smaller.
edit on 1-2-2011 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 03:46 PM
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reply to post by Chadwickus
 


Just saw a bunch of new pictures of the sail from Finland amateurs. It looks to be brighter than I was expecting in most cases, which is very good news. There are gaps in its trail in the high resolution color shot at this link, indicating it's still tumbling and goes dark when it's at an "edge-on" orientation:
www.ursa.fi...
High resolution image here:
www.ursa.fi...
edit on 1-2-2011 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 06:28 PM
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reply to post by ngchunter
 


Great pics and great description, thank mate.

Sounds like you'll be up against it!



posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 10:46 PM
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Recent article from NASA:

science.nasa.gov...

They pretty much have described it as above, flares from the sail should get brighter and brighter as it get's closer to the earth.

Look out for threads in the A&U forum soon!



posted on Feb, 2 2011 @ 08:14 AM
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reply to post by Chadwickus
 


Cool, thanks for the link! It seems to indicate that it's 7th magnitude when it's not flaring, but at the same time the flares themselves can sometimes be quite prolonged as in the bright streak image I shared earlier. Basically because the attitude is unpredictable for now there's no way to know for sure if a flare will be seen at your location or not though, so worst case scenario is a 7th magnitude streak (right at the limit of human vision from pristinely dark skies with no moon).

I just did some test tracking of about 4 satellites this morning, I'll post some pictures later. Tracking accuracy was great; I don't need the viewfinder to track satellites ~700km high at 2 meters of focal length, though it becomes necessary at 4 meters of focal length. ISS generally requires the viewfinder cam at both 2 and 4 meters because it's so much lower and the apparent motion is ridiculously high, and because at that altitude atmospheric drag becomes much more significant causing the orbital elements' accuracy to fade much faster.

The question is how high will it be 3 weeks from now, and whether or not I can manage to detect it with the viewfinder camera; I found that the camera's limiting magnitude is 7, and that's just barely detectable. In theory that's just enough, but I'll have to see if it's really enough in practice. Even if it's not, provided the tracking accuracy is as good as it was this morning, I *should* be able to fish around for the satellite and find it.
edit on 2-2-2011 by ngchunter because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 2 2011 @ 11:57 AM
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Here's a spent rocket body I imaged this morning during my practice run. It's tiny, but the shape is resolved:
farm6.static.flickr.com...




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