Doomed ROSAT captured in video

By Phil Plait | October 20, 2011 9:45 am

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:

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.

Related posts:

YouTube video where I explain a satellite re-entry
BREAKING: SpySat successfully hit by missile
Atlantis, one last time in the Sun
SERIOUSLY jaw-dropping pictures of Endeavour and the ISS!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: ROSAT, Thierry Legault

Comments (7)

  1. I know the odds are way against it, but wouldn’t it be cool if he could video it as it was breaking up?

  2. Carey

    I’ve got my catcher’s mitt ready…

  3. As fast as that thing is moving, it’s incredible that it could be tracked that accurately. Then I went to his site and saw the mount(Tak EM 400); now, I’m cleaning the drool off my laptop.

  4. Josh M

    Can someone just give him an honorary engineering certificate already? He’s making the professionals look bad and the amateurs feel inadequate. (Seriously, he does the most amazing stuff, and I’m thrilled to see “amateur” taken to so high a level. I do Amateur Radio, which is all about this kind of engineering prowess in the hands of “amateurs.”)

  5. Rosa Williams

    I’m strangely saddened to see ROSAT inbound. I did my graduate thesis with data from this satellite. (Mind you, some days back then I would cheerfully have wished orbital decay on it.) Not that I don’t adore Chandra nowadays, but you never forget your first real relationship….

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Rosa : Very true – & congrats for your thesis btw – but on the bright side she’s getting a “Viking funeral” and going out in spectacular style. There are worse ways to end. :-)

    (FWIW, I handed in my honours thesis on the Palestinian issue the day Yasser Arafat died – which was NOT great timing.)

    Superluminous jaw-dropping stuff from Thierry Legault – as now expected but still beyond any superlatives~ly impressive. ūüėÄ

    Thought for the day (one of many thankfully) : A ROSSAT by any other name would hurt as much if it hit you when it re-entered? ūüėČ

  7. Blargh

    It looks like I was wrong. And that’s something I’m quite happy about. :)

    Can someone just give him an honorary engineering certificate already?

    Well, he is already an engineer:)


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