Harvey Sees The Last of MIR

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Harvey Sees The Last of MIR


ASSS Treasurer Harvey Duncan returned in early April from an extended stay in the Antipodes with this son and family. Here he recounts one highlight………

New Zealand with its clear atmosphere is a marvellous place to observe the heavens and spacecraft as they pass overhead, so I interrupted my holiday occasionally to take advantage of this.

So it was that early on the evening of the 22nd March around 6:40pm I found myself atop a hill on the east coast of Christchurch in the company of some twenty oddly assorted men with cameras, binoculars and telescopes plus a lady who had chanced upon this group. Her knowledge of space matters was sparse but greatly enhanced when upon her enquiring about a light seen travelling across the sky from the west she was informed that it was an airplane coming in to land at Christchurch airport.

Suddenly about 6:55pm someone “noticed MIR” approaching behind us from the South — strange direction! But this was quickly identified as a polar satellite heading North on its orbit.

MIR was scheduled to appear around 7:07pm at an elevation of 7° above the horizon. Suddenly at 7:05pm a light appeared where MIR was expected but lower than anticipated. All instruments were trained on it to discover red and blue flashing lights — another ruddy aircraft!

Finally two minutes later another light appeared rapidly catching up with the aircraft apparently below it — yes it was MIR on its final sighting across the heavens before plunging into the Pacific Ocean the following day. It was only visible for a few seconds and too far away for a decent photograph but everyone was satisfied – we had seen it!

I also observed the International Space Station and the shuttle speeding across the skies of New Zealand plus several satellites while there.

I was also fortunate one evening while walking down to the beach en route for a beer with my son, when we observed almost overhead a polar satellite trace a fiery path across the sky from the north as it plunged through the atmosphere to its final resting place in the southern ocean.

If you are interested in observing the space station, shuttle or satellites log on to NASA’s “human space flight site” (on the Links page) click “sightings” then your “town” or the nearest one to you. Here you are given the dates, time, elevation, duration of sightings and direction to look for the various spacecraft in your area.

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