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.
observatory, an observation of the space probe NEAR was organized
for the night of January 22-23, 1998.
The NICMOS3-based facility infrared camera
was used. We show here a preliminary
(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
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.
F. Mannucci and
A. Richichi .
Learn more about NEAR and the sunglint event
Contact: D. Dunham
The NEAR probe and its mission:
Our previous attempt at 8 million Km on
January 9, 1998