Tag Archives: satellite

Final Boost Stage – 4K UHD

satellite launch final burn stage


Cropped view of satellite and stage burn.
Cropped view of satellite and burn stage.

Final Boost Stage on Youtube. Be sure to read description and click HD or UHD and watch full screen.

On July 28th, 2014, I was set up to shoot the Milky Way near Kennebec, South Dakota.  I was shooting a Canon 5D Mark III with a Nikon 14-24 lens on an eMotimo TB3 mounted on a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Dolly. I had looked through some of the stills but didn’t notice anything unusual. In December 2014 I was editing timelapse that had been shot during the year. When I got to the July 28th sequence I noticed something different on it. At first I thought it was another meteor with persistent train, but I had missed the meteor in between exposures. I had already caught several meteor with persistent trains on timelapse last year, so I was watching for them. Then I looked closer and noticed the flash was dimming and getting brighter. Also, when I zoomed in I could see a satellite or object right before the first flash. I searched and found the the GSSAP and ANGELS satellites had launched on July 28th at 7:28 EDT.

I emailed Mark “Indy” Kochte who works on the Mercury MESSENGER program. He showed it to his colleagues Nick Pinkine and James Hudson (Solar Probe Pluse Mission Ops Manager and MESSENGER Mission Analyst) and they agreed that it was the AFRL ANGELS satellite burning it’s final boost stage.

The first flash you see on the timelapse happened at 1:09am July 29th (camera time) so that also seems to match up with the timing for the final burn the article mentions. You will also see many other satellites moving through the cropped timelapse, there are also some geostationary ones.

Camera Settings: 30 second exposure with 3 second interval, ISO 6400, F2.8

Music by Simon Wilkinson at thebluemask.com



Meteor or Satellite?




These 2 timelapse frames are from my latest timelapse “Huelux”. Go to 3:20 in the video to see the timelapse.

A bright Satellite flash or Iridium flare, can sometimes look like a meteor in a long exposure star photo. If you are shooting timelapse, it is easy to distinguish between a meteor or satellite flash in the frames. Most meteors enter the atmosphere at 25,000 mph or faster, and burn up relatively fast at a much lower altitude than satellites.

If you are shooting a 30 second exposure with a 3 second interval, the meteor would have to be burning up for at least 34 seconds for it to show up in 2 consecutive frames. I have caught dozens of meteors in timelapse frames and seen many with my own eyes. The longest I have seen with my own eyes has lasted maybe 3 seconds. Satellites are moving much slower than meteors and are much higher, so they take longer to travel across the sky. So they will always be visible, even a faint trail, in 2 or more frames, if they are within the frame. Satellites are an important part of our exploration of space and they are put together with incredibly detailed technology and equipment like transmitters, solar panels, LVDT’s (you can look here for more information on this), to name a few, so to see one traveling across the sky at night is a sight to behold and we can only hope that it is not falling or breaking down.

In these two consecutive frames, you will see the bolide Meteor in the lower center, and a Satellite in the upper left, and another one to the right of the Milky Way core. This was 25 second exposures with a 3 second interval between the two photos. Click image to enlarge.

Meteor and Satellites
Meteor and Satellites

The Meteor is gone from the following frame, because it was travelling so fast and burned up, both satellites still have a trail. I think it also missed a bright part of the flare on the upper left Satellite, during the 3 second interval between shots. Some satellites will show up in 5 or more frames and will take minutes to cross the sky. Click image to enlarge.

Satellite trails
Satellite trails