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Space probe NEAR recorded on January 23, 1998
from the italian observatory TIRGO

On January 23, 1998 the space probe NEAR was on its way to its closest approach to Earth. Shortly before this, a so-called sunglint event was scheduled: by re-orienting its solar panels in order to reflect sunlight onto Earth's surface, the probe would shine for a few minutes brighter than any star in the sky. This event was fine-tuned in order to be well visible from the united States. From our location, the sunglint was invisible. However, we were able to record a series of images of the space probe shortly before the sunglint event, and we have assembled them into a movie.

Our observation

At the TIRGO observatory, an observation of the space probe NEAR was organized for the night of January 22-23, 1998. The NICMOS3-based facility infrared camera ARNICA was used. We show here a preliminary movie (MPEG format, 412kb) made from 74 frames, each lasting 5 seconds. The space probe is easily seen as a luminous point moving rapidly across the image (diagonally from the bottom left corner), against the background of fixed stars. The starting time of the movie is 01:36:18 UT on January 23 and it covers just over 6 minutes. The field of view is 256x256 arcseconds. Work is in progress to estimate the brightness of the space probe and to bring the frames into a final stage of presentation.


Scheduling and preparation of the observation by F. Mannucci and A. Richichi, telescope operation by P. Ranfagni and P. Saraceno, data analysis and presentation by A. Richichi. Our home institute is the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory in Florence, Italy. Contacts: F. Mannucci and A. Richichi .

Learn more about NEAR and the sunglint event

Contact: D. Dunham
General: IOTA Homepage
Ephemerides: IOTA Link
The NEAR probe and its mission: NASA Homepage
Our previous attempt at 8 million Km on January 9, 1998

Back to the Lunar Occultations homepage. Comments to Last modified on January 23, 1998 by A. Richichi