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Atlas Centaur Fuel Dump and Orion

Posted: 22 January 2022

Open: Friday, 21 January 2022, 1813 MST
Temperature: 65°F
Session: 1712
Conditions: Mostly clear

12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece

D7200 DSLR
iPhone 13 Pro Max

1818 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Viewed Jupiter, 102X.

Slewed to Rigel for upcoming imaging of the constellation of Orion.

Mounted the Nikon D7200 DSLR piggyback on the 12" LX600 telescope using the Scopestuff Camera Mount and a ballhead, as seen in this iPhone photo.


1838 MST: StarLock ON.

1841 MST: Took this StarLock autoguided photograph of Orion in the twilight sky, f/4, 30 seconds, ISO 3200, FL 23mm.


1843 MST: StarLock OFF.

I then began waiting for the sky to get darker and the time for the expected fuel dump from the Atlas Centaur upper stage that had been launched from Florida earlier in the day. While waiting I began seeing several SpaceX Starlink satellites near the constellations of Auriga and Gemini. They were about the same brightness as the star Castor.

1858 MST: iPhone 13 Pro Max photo of two Starlink satellites, handheld, taken with the Camera app (Night Mode, 3 seconds, 1X lens), slightly cropped.


1908 MST: StarLock ON.

I began imaging Orion and the fuel dump. Clouds that had been low in the northwestern sky when I opened the observatory were now in much of my sky. Zodiacal Light was visible in the western sky. As the fuel dump proceeded it was about as large and as bright as M42 (Orion Nebula). Using 12x50 binoculars it appeared as a large cone-shaped cloud.

These photos (f/4, 30 seconds, ISO 3200, FL 23mm, slightly cropped) show Orion and the fuel dump in the lower righthand corner. Movement of the fuel dump cloud is evident during the 16 minutes between the two photos. Some Earth clouds appear at the left in the top photo.


1937 MST: Took this photo (f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 3200, FL 140mm, not cropped) that shows the rocket trailing and the fuel dump.


1939 MST: Clouds were now in much of the sky, including at Orion.

1942 MST: StarLock OFF.

1953 MST: LX600 OFF.

2024 MST: As rain was in the forecast for the next couple of days, I put the Dome Cover ON.

Close: Friday, 21 January 2022, 2026 MST
Temperature: 48°F
Session Length: 2h 13m
Conditions: Mostly cloudy

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