Doomed ROSAT captured in video

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Oct. 20 2011 9:45 AM

Doomed ROSAT captured in video

I actually kinda half-expected this would happen: the fantastic "amateur" astronomer Thierry Legault was able to observe and get video of the astronomical satellite ROSAT as it's making its final orbits around the Earth:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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He also observed it on October 16th, but I think the video above from late September shows it better.

To show you how good this is, I took an image he provided of stills from his video and added a drawing of the satellite below them:

Amazingly, in Thierry's images you can clearly see the boom extending from the satellite's main body (at the bottom of the photos, and off to the left in the drawing). That boom holds a magnetometer (to measure the Earth's magnetic field) and an antenna used to communicate with Earth. From what I can tell, the boom is about 4.4 meters (14.4 feet) in length. In that September image, ROSAT was over 450 km (270 miles) away from Thierry when he took it!

Current models predict ROSAT will plunge to Earth on October 23rd, sometime around 11:00 UTC (7:00 a.m. Eastern US time). Follow ROSAT_reentry on Twitter for the latest info.



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